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Use this Tool to Prevent Financial Exploitation and Identity Theft

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By Jessica A. Hayes

A hot topic of late among elder law attorneys and certainly in our office is financial exploitation. Between data breaches in the insurance and other industries, phone scams, phishing e-mails, malware on computers, and occasional untrustworthy caregivers, our personal information – including full names, dates of birth, and Social Security Numbers – is increasingly vulnerable to exposure and misuse. What is then done with that information can often be financially devastating.

Having had my own personal information compromised in a couple of widespread breaches over the last few years, I had the pleasure of learning firsthand about the best way to guard against the misuse of my information a few months ago: placing a “credit freeze” on file with all three credit reporting agencies.

A credit freeze is a tool by which a consumer (or his agent under a power of attorney) may prevent credit inquiries and the issuance of credit using his Social Security Number. Anytime you apply for a credit card, automobile loan, mortgage, or line of credit, for example, the company submits a credit inquiry to one (or more) of the three credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. The inquiry then appears on your credit report. Too many inquiries in a short period of time may negatively affect your credit score and your ability to obtain credit. Once you have applied for and received credit, of course, that appears on your credit report, too. However, if you have a credit freeze in place, neither a credit inquiry nor the issuance of credit is permitted unless you contact the credit reporting agency ahead of time and request the freeze be lifted.

Once a credit freeze is in place, anyone who tries to apply for credit on your behalf will be automatically rejected. Your credit will remain as you left it, regardless of who has your information. If you want to apply for credit but continue benefiting from the credit freeze immediately after doing so, you can lift the freeze temporarily, for a duration of time that you select and/or for one particular financial institution only. This is easily done online using a personal PIN number on each of the credit reporting agencies’ websites, and can be accomplished by phone, as well.

Putting a credit freeze into place is a good practice regardless of whether your personal information has been compromised, but it is an especially helpful tool for seniors, who are more vulnerable to financial exploitation. Consider putting one into place today – with each of the three credit reporting agencies – to give yourself peace of mind in knowing that, in the event your information is compromised, your credit will remain intact.

Each of the three credit reporting agencies’ websites on credit freezes may be located here:

Experian: https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Equifax: https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

TransUnion: https://www.transunion.com/credit-freeze/place-credit-freeze

The cost of putting a credit freeze into place varies by state, but is generally minimal, and for the peace of mind it brings, worth every penny.

Kit KatAsk Kit Kat – Pet Dangers of E-Cigarettes

Hook Law Center:  Kit Kat, what are some of the dangers of E-cigarettes to pets?

Kit Kat:  Well, there are some really serious dangers to pets from E-cigarettes. While it is laudable that people are trying to eliminate their nicotine craving, E-cigarettes can be extremely hazardous to pets. It is not only the smoke, but refill cartridges themselves which cause problems. Take for example the case of a seven-month-old pit bull puppy who chewed on an E-cigarette refill cartridge. Within an hour, the puppy was trembling and had eye twitches. The owner immediately got her to the vet, and the puppy recovered, but not before she suffered full-blown tremors and accelerated heart rate. Liquid nicotine is extremely potent. It can obviously be consumed orally, but it also can be absorbed through a pet’s skin or mucous membrane. Their bodies are so small, that the deleterious effects happen extremely quickly. Nicotine gum, patches, and even tobacco itself are also hazardous.

Another issue with E-cigarettes is that the potency of the nicotine. Cartridges for E-cigarettes vary from mild to highly concentrated. If your pet has ingested nicotine, the signs will be obvious within 30-60 minutes. Be on the alert for lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, agitation, accelerated heart rates, and even seizures. Immediate veterinary care will be necessary, or you can seek help on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435. (“E-Cigarettes: The New Threat to Pets,” ASPCA Action, Issue 1, 2017, pg. 8)

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Posted on Friday, June 16th, 2017. Filed under Newsletter.