Archive for March, 2015

Tax Season Riddled With ID Theft Scams

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LAdyThe IRS says more than 3,000 taxpayers have been victimized by phone scammers claiming to be IRS agents and demanding payments by either by pre-paid debit cards, or by deposit into online payment accounts.

The IRS says it doesn’t call taxpayers to discuss their accounts, so anyone receiving such a call should hang up quickly.

Another potential danger for taxpayers is identity thieves using personal information to file fraudulent tax returns, and stealing their refunds. A number of states have enacted stricter identity verification methods to try to reduce this threat.

Tax season also brings with it an increase in email phishing scams in which criminals send emails claiming to be from the IRS, in the hopes victims will enter personal information into a false IRS or banking website.

Scammers are also trying to exploit confusion about the Affordable Care Act by demanding people pay ACA-related tax penalties to them.

All these scams highlight the importance of taking active steps to protect your identity, and the need for heightened vigilance during tax season.

Maria Cordeiro is client services manager for Chubb Personal Insurance.  Posted: 17 Mar 2015 08:34 AM PDT

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Wearing green, corned beef and cabbage, and of course a drink or two are par for the day.  But here are 5 things you might not know about today.

1. The original color for St. Patrick was blue.

2. The 1st St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in Boston in 1737.

3. For short, it’s St. Paddy not St. Patty.  St. Patty is for St. Patricia, patron saint of Naples, celebrated in August.

4. Guinness is lo-cal! A pint is 198 calories; less than most light beers, wine, orange juice, or low fat milk.

5. Shamrocks were used by St. Patrick to teach the Catholic concept of the Trinity.

Enjoy your day and please remember to celebrate responsibly; don’t drink and drive.

Falls may be tied to irregular heartbeat

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By Kathryn Doyle  (Reuters Health)

Older adults who suffer a fall are twice as likely to have a common type of irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, according to a new study.

“These results are certainly surprising, as an association between AF and falls has not been shown in the general population before,” said Dr. Sofie Jansen of the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Certain arrhythmias are known to cause fainting or blackouts, but this is the first study to show the link with falls, Jansen told Reuters Health by email.

She and her colleagues analyzed data on 4,800 adults over age 50 in Ireland who completed questionnaires, personal interviews and physical health assessments, including electrocardiograms, between 2009 and 2011.

Twenty percent of participants reported falling at least once in the past year. Fainting and blackouts were less common.

Overall, three percent of people had atrial fibrillation (AF): about one percent of those ages 50 to 64, four percent of those up to age 74, and almost eight percent of those ages 75 and older. More than a third did not know they had AF before the study.

Almost 30 percent of those with AF had fallen over the past year compared to about 20 percent of those without AF, the researchers reported in Age and Ageing.

After accounting for other risk factors that might contribute to falls, the authors found that having AF doubled people’s odds of falling.

In addition, 10 percent of people with AF reported fainting or blacking out compared to four percent of those without the arrhythmia.

At least five million U.S. adults in 2010 had been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, which may rise to about 12 million cases by the year 2030, according to a 2013 study (see Reuters Health article of July 26, 2013 here: reut.rs/1BSOiNn).

The irregular, usually very fast, heartbeat can cause uncomfortable palpitations, limit the ability to exercise or lead to heart failure or stroke, but it may not cause symptoms for some. It can be treated with medications and lifestyle changes to reduce stroke risk, according to the National Institutes of Health.

There are several ways AF could cause a fall, Jansen said.

“AF can impair the ability of the heart to pump blood around the body, including the brain,” she said. “This can lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen going to the brain, causing either a faint or black-out (syncope), or dizziness resulting in a fall in a person who is already unstable.”

The irregular heartbeat can also be tied to stroke and hypertension, which can lead to degenerative changes in the brain.

“All of these changes in the brain can also affect walking, mobility, and other conditions that affect fall risk, such as depression and dementia,” Jansen said.

But, she emphasized, this study did not show that AF causes falls, only that it is significantly more common among people who fall.

“Falls are very common in older adults,” Jansen said. “People with AF have an even greater risk of falls, and when they suffer from falls they should definitely mention this to their physician, as there are several treatment or prevention options for falls.”

“Because falls usually have several causes or contributing factors, recognition and treatment of all of these factors is vital to reduce fall risk,” she said.

The most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, balance problems, gait problems, medication side effects, neurological issues, dizziness or cognitive impairment, according to Dr. Laurence Z. Rubenstein, who chairs the Donald W. Reynolds Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City.

Cardiac arrhythmias, including AF, do cause some falls but less commonly than the other causes and risk factors mentioned, said Rubenstein, who was not part of the new study.

“Falls are a very important problem in the older population and we’re always looking for ways to reduce them,” he said. “When you do a post-fall evaluation, listening to the heart is an important part of that,” and a doctor would likely discover signs of AF it were present, he said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1aM2BaD Age and Ageing, online February 21, 2015.

Boating Time is ALMOST Here!!

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imagesAs you dream about those sunny days ahead on the water this season, some of you may also contemplate adding a fire pit to your vessel for those chilly sea breezes at night.  A lovely picture.  It seems like a perfect idea.  But BEFORE you buy that fire pit, make a call to your insurance agent to see how having one on board may affect your coverages.  Better to know now as it may inform your choice.

Test, Change and Maintain.

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Daylight Savings Time is here and whether you agree with its benefits or not, come 2 am Sunday, it will officially become 3am Sunday.  Of course we don’t expect anyone to actually stay up to make the change at that exact time!  Doing so before bed or when you wake up, which ever way is easier for you to deal with losing an hour, is just fine.

There are also things that you should also do at this time of year on this date: Test, Change and Maintain.

Test your smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and even your house security systems.  Better to know NOW that they are properly working for you than to find out AFTER an emergency happens that they were not functioning properly.

Change the batteries in ALL the alarms.  Yes, there may be good life left in them, but you want these systems to always have the best life they can have so they can protect you.  You don’t have to toss the old batteries, just use those on other things that don’t require ladders and chairs or screwdrivers to change them out.

Maintain your fire extinguishers.  This is a good time to make sure they are within easy reach and that everyone in your home knows where they are and how to use them.

 

 

Transition Time

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Can you feel it?  Change is coming. The very month of March is all about change.  You know the saying:  March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Quite the transition. 

But in spite of outward appearances (for those who can see OVER the snow banks) and the current temps (it should be in the 40s but we barely made 21 today!) there is a collective sense, a hope, a NEED for change, some positivity, some good things in store to help us keep perspective and our sanity. 

With every Fitts Monthly Email that we send to our customers we end it by saying: We love having you as our customer and we want you to stay safe, healthy and happy! And we truly mean it.  So we offer you the following facts to ease the transition and indeed attest to the truth that change is just around the corner.

 

1. Spring: 14 days away and getting closer every second!

2. March Madness: 11 days away; pick your brackets now, we hope your team wins!

3. Start of baseball season: 32 days away 

4. Opening Day at Fenway: a tad and a bit over a month away, stock up on peanuts and Cracker Jacks

5. Boston Marathon: 45 days away – big push for last minute training

6. The start of Daylight Savings Time: TOMORROW, move your clocks ahead one hour. Longer days = more sunshine!

7. St. Paddy’s Day: 10 days away – enjoy the party but no drinking and driving!

8. The premier of Cinderella and Frozen Fever: 7 days away.  Prepare for the successor obsession to Elsa, Anna and THAT SONG “Let It Go”  (We wish we could)

9. Easter: 30 days away – not too soon to buy the new outfit, order the ham, and help the Bunny – you gotta get the good candy NOW before it’s all gone!!!

 

We hope we have given you a few smiles and things to look forward to during these last death rattles of winter.  Remember: this too, shall pass.