Archive for November, 2012

The Social Security Administration Encourages You to be on the Look Out for Scams

Friday, November 30th, 2012

The Social Security Administration Encourages You to be on the Look Out for Scams

Disaster scams are still out there. The Social Security Administration (SSA) issued another warning last week. The scammers are making phone calls and sending emails, posing as FEMA or SSA employees. They ask  for your Social Security number  and bank information, stating that they need it to make sure you get your benefits. These are the same type of scammers that call or send emails claiming that you won a prize and asking you to provide information so they may send you the winnings or even asking you to pay a fee upfront.  Once the thieves have your personal information, they can use it to open credit accounts, buy homes, claim tax refunds, and commit other types of fraud. Most recently, some identity thieves have redirected Social Security beneficiaries’ monthly benefit payments, so the money goes to a different bank account, sometimes repeatedly.

To help prevent this type of fraud, the Inspector General recommends that you:

  • never provide your personal information when receiving unsolicited calls or contacts
  • never agree to accept pre-paid debit cards or credit cards in another person’s name
  • never agree to send or wire money to an unknown person
  • always contact your local SSA office if you receive a call from a person claiming to be from SSA, and that person asks you to provide your Social Security number or other information.

To verify the legitimacy of a caller who claims to be an SSA employee, call your local Social Security office, or Social Security’s toll-free customer service number at 1-800-772-1213. Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can call Social Security’s TTY number at 1-800-325-0778.

If you find that someone has stolen or is using your personal information, you should report that to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/idtheft or 1-877-ID-THEFT.  You can report suspicious activity involving Social Security programs and operations to the Social Security Fraud Hotline, or by phone at 1-800-269-0271. Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals can call OIG’s TTY number at 1-866-501-2101.

Disaster SNAP – Food Assistance for those affected by Sandy

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

CHRISTIE ADMINISTRATION BEGINS TRANSITION AWAY FROM STATE-SUPPORTED EMERGENCY SHELTERS THIS WEEK

TRENTON – The Christie Administration today announced that due to the success of finding temporary housing placements for shelterees, it anticipates closure of Monmouth Raceway Park’s Club House and the Arthur Brisbane Child Treatment Center – two state supported shelters – this week. Individuals who are ineligible for federal assistance, but require continued support, are working with representatives from their respective home counties’ Boards of Social Services to determine alternative accommodations.

“At this point, most of the individuals and families who remain in emergency shelter are those who struggled financially and experienced chronic homelessness even before Hurricane Sandy,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Velez. “We’re familiar with their needs and we’ll continue to serve them during this transition.”  

On November 1st, New Jersey had more than 7,000 residents in 127 emergency shelters established to support evacuees and others in need of shelter following Hurricane Sandy. As of Tuesday morning, only 110 New Jersey residents remained in both locations.  Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean Counties each continue to operate a local emergency shelter with a combined census of about 75 residents.

Since the shelters were set up, individuals and families on-site have worked with representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), state agencies, county social service representatives, the American Red Cross and other non-governmental organizations to develop plans for transitional, short and longer term housing options. Staff from the state’s Department of Children and Families also has met with families to help them find suitable housing arrangements.

“We are committed to helping families who remain in shelters successfully transition to temporary or longer-term housing over the next several days,” said DCF Commissioner Allison Blake. “Our goal is to assure these families remain safe and supported with the resources and assistance we are able to provide.”

Individuals and families moving from the shelters will be given a list of available resources including, addresses and phone numbers to: county Boards of Social Services, county-based Disaster Recovery Centers, state Family Success Centers, state Mental Health Screening Centers and County Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Coordinators.  In addition, they’ll receive website addresses to: NJ211 for basic referral services, NJ Helps to apply for state and federal entitlement programs and End Hunger NJ, which lists locations of food pantries and soup kitchens by county.

“The transition away from state-supported emergency shelters puts New Jersey solidly on the path to rebuilding the lives of our residents who were significantly impacted by Hurricane Sandy,” said Commissioner Velez. “We’re finding longer term solutions for people so they can move on from congregate sheltering arrangements and get their lives back on track.”

Go Direct- Deadline approaching

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Go Direct- Deadline approaching

As we seem to be hurtling quickly to toward the end of 2012, we begin to think about opportunities and changes in 2013. One important thing to know from anyone receiving Federal benefits is that by March 1, 2013 you need to switch to Direct Deposit. When we first heard of this, it seemed so far away, but now, here we are at the end of 2012 and March 2013 is approaching fast.

So, who does this affect exactly? By March 1, 2013, everyone getting the following federal benefits by paper check is required to switch to electronic payments – direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or to the Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card:

  • Social Security
  • Supplemental Security Income
  • Veterans Affairs
  • Railroad Retirement Board
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Department of Labor (Black Lung)

How do you switch? People applying for or receiving federal benefit payments must choose an electronic payment option – direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or to a Direct Express® Debit MasterCard® card – from the beginning.

If the benefit recipient has a bank or credit union account, they should sign up for direct deposit https://www.godirect.gov/gpw/index.gd, or by calling (800) 333-1795, or visiting their local bank/credit union branch or federal benefit agency office.

If the benefit recipient prefers a prepaid debit card or doesn’t have a bank account, they can call (800) 333-1795, or notify their local federal benefit agency.

People who have not chosen an electronic payment option by March 1, 2013, will receive their money after the deadline date via the Direct Express® card, so they will not experience any interruption in payment.

In the aftermath of Sandy

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

In the aftermath of Sandy

Many New Jerseyans were affected by Hurricane Sandy, a number of them seniors. In the past two weeks since then we’ve seen many images of destruction and heard many stories of days without power.

If you are still in need of assistance as you recover from the damage Sandy left behind, here are some important numbers and websites to know:

Dial 2-1-1 or visit www.nj211.org to find out about local resources for food, shelter, transportation, etc.

If you need disaster assistance, apply for FEMA by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or visit www.disasterassistance.gov Please know that there are deadlines to requesting help and that you need to reach out to FEMA directly, they will not contact you.

Your local chapter of the Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org/find-help) and the Salvation Army (http://www.use.salvationarmy.org) can also be of assistance.

If you or someone you know needs help coping with the trauma from the Hurricane you can contact the NJ Disaster Mental Health Hotline 1-877-294-4357.

There have been many reports about the help being offered to Hurricane Sandy victims. Countless organizations and individuals have provided, shelter, food, heat, clothing and comfort to those affected. Unfortunately, during times of disaster, we see some people who would rather take advantage of the situation rather than help. Please be on the look out for scams.

One, price gouging is illegal, to report it call (862) 209-0130 or (973) 220-3474.

There have been a couple of instances of people posing as utility or inspection personnel and then attempting to rob the home once they gain entry. Anyone approaching your home as a utility worker or inspector should have proper ID and have no problem showing it to you or verifying the reason for their visit. Don’t let anyone into your home that you are not 100% sure is who they say they are. Make sure to call the police and report any false attempts to gain access to your home.

There may also be people posing as false insurance programs or other assistance programs. Please make sure to always ask for proper ID and verify that the program or services they are offering are legitimate. Report any problems to your local police department.

And for those of you looking for ways to help, be aware of that there are also scammers posing as charities . The IRS has issued a statement encouraging people to look out for scam artists impersonating charities to help Hurricane Sandy victims. Donate to recognized charities only. Some will even try to use a name similar to a recognized organization so be sure to look closely. Do not give out personal information. There are various ways that these scammers will try to reach you, they may call on the phone, by email or through the use of a phony website set up to mimic that of a known charity. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site at fema.gov.

Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 1-866-562-5227, if you are a hurricane victim with specific questions about tax relief or disaster related tax issues.

If you would like to volunteer to help those affected by Sandy, you can also contact your local Red Cross or Salvation Army or call the NJ Volunteer Emergency Response Hotline at 1-800-JERSEY-7 (1-800-537-7397)

Recovering from Sandy will be a lengthy process. You may have long wait times for responses from disaster assistance programs, but know that help is coming.

Flu Season 2012

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Seasonal (or common) influenza is a respiratory illness that can be spread from person to person and is caused by human influenza viruses. 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF THE FLU?

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Body Aches
  • Headache

Flu season usually runs from October until May. The CDC recommends that you get a flu shot before the virus starts circulating. That’s why you see all the drugstores have already had signs up to get your flu shot there.

HOW CAN THE FLU BE PREVENTED?

  •  Get the flu vaccine
  •  Cover coughs and sneezes
  •  Wash hands frequently
  •  Avoid sick people
  •  Clean commonly shared or frequently touched items

 

WHEN SHOULD I GET THE FLU VACCINE?

You should get vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available (ideally by October-November) and as long as flu is present in the community.

 An annual flu shot is suggested for anyone age 6 months and over. Seniors are encouraged to get a shot as soon as they can, as each year people age 65 and over have the highest rates of influenza-related deaths and hospitalizations.

The influenza virus changes every year, so the vaccine changes too in order to combat the virus.

If you need assistance finding a place to get the flu shot visit:

http://www.state.nj.us/health/flu/findflushot.shtml