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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

MATURE Living

Health Numbers You Shoud Know Peaceful Home Settings Hearing Loss At Any Age

PLUS — Are You Retirement Ready?


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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014 ■

healthy living

Four numbers you need to know for good health Advance Glycation End-products (AGEs) are linked to nearly every chronic disease

Cranberries, blueberries and noni. image BPT

(BPT) — When it comes to health by the numbers, you probably already know to keep an eye on your cholesterol level, body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure. But are you aware of another medical marker that directly impacts these others? Advanced Glycation End-products (AGEs) are markers for the aging of our internal organs, tissues and body systems. Research shows that AGEs are linked to nearly every chronic disease we face today, such as obesity, kidney, heart and eye disease and dementia. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25 percent of Americans over the age of 60 suffer

from diabetes. Jenny Shrodes, a Columbus-area registered and licensed dietician, employs the “plate method” when offering advice. “I specialize in diabetes, and the plate method is simple — half the plate is vegetables, have a serving of fruit, a serving of lean meat, a serving of starch — and make sure that starch is a complex carbohydrate.” Pat Baird, a registered dietician and AGE Foundation board member, also knows the importance of AGEs. “While cholesterol, body mass index and blood pressure are familiar and relevant health indicators, AGEs are the critical fourth medical marker that everyone should know,” she

said. “AGEs impact how long and how well you live as they age your body from the inside out.” AGEs develop naturally in our body and can be ingested through certain foods, including browned, sugary and processed foods. When people consume too many of these foods, higher than normal levels of AGEs build up in the body’s tissues and accelerate the aging process internally. “Stick with lean meats, like poultry without skin, and fish,” Shrodes said. “Stick with carbohydrates that are complex, because they have fiber in them.” When cooking vegetables, Shrodes advised to make sure they stay crunchy and aren’t over-

cooked to the point that the color changes. You can lower AGEs in your diet by avoiding charred and blackened foods, extending cooking time and incorporating more water by steaming, poaching or boiling, and using acidic marinades that are lemon or lime-based into your food preparation, according to the AGE Foundation. “It doesn’t mean you can’t eat blackened things once in a while, but 90 percent of the time you want to be eating clean,” Shrodes said. Choosing colorful foods that include healthy iridoids, like noni, blueberries, olives and cranberries can effectively lower AGEs.

Additionally, receiving a full eight hours of sleep allows the body to fight AGE accumulation, and managing physical and emotional stress curbs the production of AGEs. “Being aware of these four critical medical markers — cholesterol, body mass index, blood pressure and AGEs — can be the first step to a better and healthier life,” Baird said. “Simple lifestyle changes like exercising for 30 minutes a day, eating a healthy diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, quitting smoking and regularly monitoring your health can help lower or maintain the level of AGEs in your body and reduce your risk for chronic diseases.”

Ask the pharmacist

Should women worry about osteoporosis? (BPT) — The “silent thief,” more commonly known as osteoporosis, impacts 10 million Americans, with millions more suffering from low bone density. Osteoporosis is a progressive, degenerative disease that occurs when bone loss outpaces the growth of new bone, weakening the bone and increasing the risk of sudden and unexpected fractures. In fact, up to one in four men and one in two women over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. Marc Surak, a specially trained pharmacist at the Express Scripts Therapeutic Resource Center who concentrates on women’s health issues, explained what causes osteoporosis and why women are at greater risk. Osteoporosis is primarily the result of the body breaking down more bone than the amount of new bones being formed, Surak said.

“Being female is the second most significant uncontrollable risk factor for the disease, with age being the first,” Surak said. “In fact, 80 percent of osteoporosis sufferers are women due to their lighter and thinner bone structure. Additionally, following menopause, a woman could lose up to 20 percent of her bone density.” Surak focuses on helping patients with medication management. Bisphosphonates are among the most commonly used medications to treat osteoporosis. The medication works to restore the balance of bone development by decreasing the action of bad cells (osteoclasts) that cause bones to break down, and increasing the production of good cells (osteoblasts), which build bones. As with all medications, there are risks. Surak and his team work to help patients manage these risks

and gain a better understanding of their medications. He offers the following tips and information to ensure the best possible outcomes for osteoporosis patients. • Take with water: Bisphosphonates help slow the process that dissolves bone tissue, but they sometimes cause stomach irritation. Because of this, oral forms of the medication should be taken first thing in the morning with a full glass of water. Try to avoid taking food, drink or other medications for 30 to 60 minutes afterward. • Know the side-effects: Although rare, bisphosphonates can cause osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). People with compromised immune systems — such as those on chemotherapy or HIV patients — are at the greatest risk for ONJ. Poor oral hygiene and those undergoing invasive dental procedures

can also increase the potential for ONJ. As a result, medication should be stopped three months prior to a dental procedure. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you have questions about ONJ. • Keep moving: An active lifestyle, including weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening exercises can help counteract the risks for and slow down the progression of osteoporosis. • Healthy eating: Follow a healthy, balanced diet that includes eating foods high in calcium, vitamin D and lean protein. Eating fresh fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products is also critical for promoting bone health. • Call your doctor: You know your body best, if something seems wrong reach out to a health-care professional. If you’re experiencing new or worsening symptoms contact your doctor immediately.


THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

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healthy living

Hearing loss is linked to other health conditions

(BPT) — Once upon a time, before people knew any better, they thought that hearing loss was simply a part of growing older — something not worth doing much about. They were wrong. Turns out, hearing loss isn’t fussy about age. More than half of us with hearing loss are still in the workforce. And hearing loss is a much bigger deal than we ever imagined. We need to take it seriously. As one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States today, hearing loss affects baby boomers, Gen Xers and every other age group. And, when left unaddressed, hearing loss affects just about every aspect of a person’s life. “In the past few years, we’ve seen a big increase in cases, as people are getting older and working longer,” said Carolyn Gigliotti, doctor of audiology for Hearing Health Solutions/Ohio ENT. “People are paying more attention to the fact that they have to be able to hear, and they’re doing something about it.” The big surprise is that hearing loss has been linked to other health conditions. Hearing loss can have unwelcome companions — like heart disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, depression, cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, increased risk of falling and increased hospitalizations. In fact, as studies on the link between hearing loss and other health conditions mount, we’ve begun to see how our ears — and specifically how our hearing — connect to our whole body and health. “Communication is such an integral part of us as human beings and when hearing loss is prevalent, people tend to isolate themselves instead of getting help,” Gigliotti said. “They isolate themselves and do their own thing, and that can lead to depression.” Here’s what we know: The very best thing to do for hearing loss is to find out if you have it as soon as possible. Then take it seriously. If deemed appropriate by a qualified hearing health-care professional, treat it. Hearing aids can benefit the vast majority of people with hearing loss. Gigliotti said hearing aids can be synced with wireless devices. You can have phone calls go directly into hearing aids, and a television signal can be transmitted directly as well. The hearing aid settings can be adjusted based on the setting — for instance, if you are in a restaurant or at a sporting event — and can be set to automatically revert to those settings if you frequent a certain establishment. “The capabilities of hearing aids are so far beyond anything I could imagine back when I was a student,” Gigliotti said. Cardiovascular and hearing health are connected. Studies show that a healthy cardiovascular system positively affects hearing. Conversely, inadequate blood flow and trauma to the blood vessels of the inner ear can contribute to hearing loss. People with diabetes are about twice as likely to have hearing loss as those without it. Recent studies show a link between hearing loss and dementia, leading many experts to stress the importance of addressing hearing loss. One study found that seniors with hearing loss are significantly more likely to develop dementia over time than those who retain their hearing. Another found that hearing loss is associated with accelerated cognitive decline in older adults, and that those with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal. People who don’t address hearing loss are more prone to depression. Fortunately, studies show that people with hearing loss who use hearing aids

often have fewer depressive symptoms, greater social engagement and improved quality of life. Hearing loss is tied to a three-fold risk of falling. One study found that even people with mild hearing loss were nearly three times more likely to have a history of falling. A study of older adults showed that those with moderate chronic kidney disease had a higher prevalence of hearing loss than those of the same age without the disease. A 2013-published study found that older men with hearing loss had a greater risk of dying, particularly from cardiovascular causes. But men and women who used hearing aids — even though they were older and had more severe hearing loss — had a significantly lower mortality risk than

those with hearing loss who did not use hearing aids. Most doctors do not include hearing health as a routine part of annual exams. So ask to have your hearing tested. Once you reach middle-age, it makes sense to include hearing tests as part of your routine annual care. Gigliotti recommends getting a test to set a baseline for your hearing, and then get checked once a year or every two years, as needed. “And you can do things to help prevent problems, like noise protection,” she added. “Even mowing the lawn can require protection — especially if you have a big lawn that might take you two or three hours … that’s a lot of intense noise for a long time.”


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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014 ■

image thinkstockphotos.com

Become retirement ready in three steps The top five challenges in becoming retirement ready can be overcome

est person you know alive today? Chances are, you know someone who is well into their 90s. Saving for retirement now prepares you for the exciting possibility of having a longer retirement.

Procrastination

(BPT) — It’s no secret that Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement. Many people are coming up short when it comes to funding their nest egg. But why is the problem so widespread? Insight can be found in the human behaviors that tend to get in the way of saving adequately. The experts at Prudential Retirement note the top five challenges to being retirement ready include:

It’s human nature to procrastinate. And while some things take the same amount of time to do whether completed today or a year from now, others only get harder to do the longer you delay them. Saving for retirement is one example — every year you don’t save for retirement is less money you may have when it comes time to retire, making it that much more difficult to reach your goals and pursue your dreams.

Living longer

Optimism

Did you know a baby born today is more likely to live to 100 than to be born with blue eyes? The fact is, people are living longer, and it’s hard to know how long you’ll live. You may live many years beyond retirement, a time when you’re no longer creating income. The challenge is we still believe we’re living to 70 or 75 — but think about it. How old is the old-

People in general are optimistic, which is a wonderful quality, except when it comes to retirement planning. It’s easy to think bad things won’t ever happen to us — including unexpected health issues, loss of a job or a bad accident. It’s important to be realistic when planning for retirement, and always plan for the unexpected.

Following the pack

Instant gratification

Humans are social beings. If enough people are doing something, we tend to want to follow because we assume there must be a good reason. The urge to follow the pack can get us in trouble, though, particularly when it comes to saving and investing. Make sure you define your own goals for retirement and work with a financial advisor to create an individual plan that works for you. “Every investor, regardless of whether they are saving for retirement or for something else, has an end goal for their investments that is unique to them,” said Kevin Mitchell, a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management in Columbus. “Depending on that end goal, an investment that may be appropriate for one person may not be appropriate for someone else,” he said. “For example, many investors suffered serious losses in the dot com bubble of the late ’90s by ‘following the herd’ into Internet stocks that were probably not appropriate for many of them, given their specific goals.”

The newest car, computer or video game — it’s easy to feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. Spending too much on impulse purchases rather than funding savings can be devastating, particularly for your retirement. Delaying gratification and keeping a budget is key.We all want to imagine living out our dreams in retirement — rather than worrying about money. Whether you’re in your 20s or your 50s, retirement savings should be top of mind. In addition to knowing and conquering the top challenges of retirement readiness, here are three things you can do to ensure you’re on the right path: 1. Workplace retirement opportunities If your place of work offers a retirement program, sign up for it as soon as possible. 2. Diversification A diversified investment strategy can help protect you from the unexpected. 3. Financial planner Working with a professional can help you learn about various savings options for reaching your personal retirement goals.


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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

At home

Stay comfortable and independent at home

Zero, zip, zilch

image bpt

(BPT) — Senior living is a time for rest and relaxation, and the home is the first place to incorporate a comfortable and spalike living quarters. The chaos of raising children has passed, and retirement has brought a sense of peace and quiet upon the home. For example, sometimes the decor needs a bit of variation to develop a calming ambiance in rooms like the bedroom or living area. Blues, greens and muted yellows can impart a sense of serenity to these rooms. “Older people, especially those at retirement age, are more into color than younger people,� said Rose Mary Kohler, co-owner of Columbus-based Findley-Kohler Interiors. “Brighter colors are more popular for older people.�

of them tripping.� “We have to make it the safest floor plan for them to get through, especially if they have a walker or physical impairments,� Kohler added. Also make certain the fixtures in your home have the spa qualities you crave. For example, there are walk-in baths featuring wonderful spa qualities of hydrotherapy, chromatherapy and aromatherapy. Chromatherapy lights immerse the tub in relaxing colors: such as red, orange, green, blue or magenta. Once you have established the bathroom spa, bring a little outdoors inside with plants and sunlight to finalize the at-home spa experience. Potted plants with beautiful flowers or decorative

Many upgrades can make your home more comfortable and restful and allow you to stay safe and independent in your home.

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You can also use fabrics to establish a restful feeling. Soft, muted carpeting, flowing curtains in light airy colors and plush pillows decorating furniture help accomplish this. Finally, rounded shapes in the furniture and accessories of the room help to finalize the whole picture. Try finding oval end tables, or curved artwork to hang on the walls, rather than straight corners, which could cause injury or a tripping hazard when bumped into. Kohler, who has helped many people transition their homes, said safety is a big factor in design. “We try to make the home easier to live in,� she said. “No throw rugs, no furniture in walkways and try to remove some of the furniture all over so there is less of a chance

green and white contrasting leaves create a living sanctuary, plus help to increase oxygen levels in a room. Consider establishing an indoor garden in the kitchen along the windowsill with aromatic herbs, or in a living room or family room with potted flowering plants. Incorporating plants inside often requires more sunlight. Natural light is great for a restful home — it provides warmth and can ease achy muscles, especially in the colder months. With these tips, your home will be a restful and comfortable place to enjoy retirement and the luxury of being able to spend your time the way you want to spend it — no children or jobs around to interrupt.

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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014 ■

technology

Modern technology helps older drivers (BPT) — Technology is increasingly integrating with many aspects of our daily routines. From toothbrushes that beep when you are brushing too hard to thermostats that automatically adjust the temperature based on your behavior, advances in technology are getting personal in ways that are intended to help ease your experience. New technology is finding its way into our cars, too, with many new vehicles equipped with technology that can help you on the road. AARP Driver Safety has information available on these modern technologies including research findings from a study conducted by The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab. The research outlines several of these modern technologies aimed at helping you stay safe and confident behind the wheel.

S ensors

and alarms

Many of the latest advancements in technology enable your vehicle to talk to you and alert you to potential dangers. Drivers identified blind spot warning systems as their top pick, in the latest survey from The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab. “Our research suggests that mature drivers value technology that assists with changing lanes and park-

ing,” said Jodi Olshevski, gerontologist and executive director of The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence. “This is encouraging and consistent with our previous research in which mature drivers identified turning their head to see blind spots as a challenging aspect of driving.” Drivers in the survey also identified crash mitigation systems as a top vehicle technology. This technology detects when the vehicle may be in danger of a collision and can help to minimize injuries to passengers. Many of the features available on Ford automobiles will help, like Blind Spot Monitoring, said Ricart Automotive Group general sales manager Jim Moshier. “In the side view mirrors, there are lights that you see if someone is in your blind spot,” he said.

Y our vehicle shoulders the burden Today’s vehicles are more successful at accomplishing a range of tasks on their own. Smart headlights adjust the range and intensity of light based on the distance of traffic. Vehicle stability control helps to automatically bring your vehicle back in the intended line of travel, particularly in situations where the driver underestimates the angle of a curve or experiences weather effects.

image BPT

And when you reach your destination, Ford can park the car for you. “It’s only around $500 to get it added to your car,” Moshier said. “And it’s not some gimmick — it really will parallel park your car.”

Y ou

are not alone

The latest technology can't prevent all accidents so it's comforting to know that if you are in an accident, there is new technology out there aimed to offer assistance. Emergency response systems offer drivers quick assistance in case of an emergency or collision and can notify emergency personnel quickly. Moshier said Ford’s 911 Assist is an incredible tool

for drivers, working with the SYNC system in the vehicles. “If you have your cell phone in the car and you are in an accident and the airbags deploy, it will automatically call 911 for you,” Moshier said. “You can even program a second number that it will dial.”

E ducation

is your best resource

All of these technologies can provide some assistance, and the most important thing you can do to make the best use of them is to continue your education. “In addition to automobile technology, traffic laws and roadway design are

continuously changing,” said Julie Lee, AARP Driver Safety vice president and national director. “Understanding these changes and learning how they impact your driving may bolster safety, comfort and improve confidence behind the wheel.” An AARP Driver Safety course helps you learn about the latest technology options and traffic laws. You’ll learn new skills to improve your defensive driving techniques and enrolling in the course could help you get a multiyear discount on your insurance (check with your agent for details). You’ll find all these benefits in just one class, available in-person or online.

Technology facilitates aging more gracefully (BPT) — Generation X and Millennials get credit for being the most tech-savvy generations, but a growing group of baby boomers are demonstrating that the generation gap has nothing to do with digital know-how. Folks 50 and older are embracing technology to help them age more gracefully than ever. Whether they’re using devices to hear better in challenging situations, or social media to reconnect with friends they’ve not seen since high school, baby boomers are demonstrating they’re not afraid to use technology to make life easier. Here are a handful of ways boomers are using technology: • Coping with auditory challenges. In our noisy, fast-paced society we commonly encounter many situations — such as a business meeting, family gathering or phone call — in which hearing

may be difficult, even for people who don’t need a specialized hearing aid. Savvy boomers are using a Bluetooth-enabled amplification device to discretely improve volume and clarity in a variety of challenging environments. Personal Sound Amplifiers from Sound World Solutions look like any other sleek, high-tech mobile phone headset, but also provide amplification that boomers can easily adjust and control themselves. Users can choose between three preset amplification settings or use a smartphone app to personalize the device. • Relationship management. Four in five people age 50 to 75 are active on social media. Of those,75 percent are on Facebook, according to a survey by technology security company McAfee. Boomers use social media — including professional sites like LinkedIn — to

reconnect with friends from high school or college, maintain contact with family and friends, date, build professional connections and develop personal interests. • Managing investments. Approaching retirement can make boomers feel driven to maximize investment returns. Yet not everyone has access to or can afford working with a financial planner. Many boomers use online investing tools to fill knowledge gaps and build their nest eggs. From indepth information on tax-deferred or tax-free investment products to online brokerage accounts, technology has made it easier than ever for the 50-plus set to save toward retirement. • Catching up on reading. Changes in vision are a natural part of aging, and it’s not uncommon for people to need some help reading their favorite novels

and use traditional compensation tactics, like wearing reading glasses or choosing large-print books and periodicals. E-readers, however, are cool — and allow boomers to enjoy their favorite reading material at the type size that’s best for them. • Staying healthier for longer. Boomers have rewritten history in many ways, and not the least among them is their determination to stay as active and healthy as possible into their old age. An array of fitness technology — from pedometers to in-home gym equipment that tracks BMI and heart rate — is helping boomers achieve their fitness and wellness goals. From devices that improve hearing clarity to online tools that help them better manage their finances, baby boomers are using technology to ensure they enjoy life and remain active and healthy well into their golden years.


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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014

mental health

The psychology of seasons: maintaining good mental health year round

(BPT) — When seasons change, moods can change with them. Thankfully, spring is right around the corner and we can look forward to longer days filled with warmth and light. However, the long, dark and cold months can give people a serious case of cabin fever, and sometimes it can take a while to shake the winter blues. Some people may even suffer from seasonal depression. Those who face this type of depression, known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), feel a physiological response by the body to decreases in light exposure associated with the fall and winter months, according to Dr. Gary Bruss, program dean of the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University, Southern California. “This is one of the more biologically based forms of depression,” Bruss said. “SAD can be characterized by moodiness, heightened irritability, lack of interest in those things you usually take pleasure in, changes in eating and sleeping patterns, and difficulty concentrating that take place during those fall and winter months every year.” Simply put, you may not feel as peppy as you normally do or have the same energy level or you may not want to be around people or follow your regular routine. If you work, you may see your performance slipping. Being proactive about your mental health and taking care of yourself can help address depression and mood swings — no matter the time of year as some depression can be attributed to certain experiences, such as the death of a loved one. However, there are steps you can take to stay healthy — both mentally and physically. Bruss recommended engaging in exercise, going for a walk or meeting friends or family for coffee or some fun activity. He also added it is important to eat a balanced diet, get enough rest at night, do nice things for yourself or find a hobby to help occupy your time. “In the fall and winter, we tend to see an increase in seasonal affective disorder and in overall stress,” said Dr. Devin Byrd, dean of the College of Health Professions at South University. “Becoming more acutely aware of your habits, stress levels and social activities can help assess and counterbalance the onset of seasonal sadness or depression.” If you sense that the season may be negatively affecting your well-being, Byrd recommends you initiate a new hobby, increase

image thinkstockphotos.com

exercise, watch what you eat and take measures to take an active role in social activities. Light exposure therapy can combat the signs and symptoms of SAD. During this type of therapy, you sit near a device called a light therapy box. This box gives off a specific kind of light that mimics the natural light from the outdoors and can ease SAD symptoms. If signs of depression appear in a family member, friend or coworker, Bruss recommends talking with them and encouraging them to seek help if depression persists or worsens. He also pointed out that the holiday season can have a major impact on depression if a person has experienced the death of a family member, close friend or a pet. If the severity of the depression interferes with a person’s ability to function socially and/or professionally, then it’s time to seek help from a mental health professional, said Bruss. “Seeking professional help is an increasingly common practice and people should not feel anxious about seeing a psychologist for psychotherapy or taking medication for depression if its needed — especially for a disorder that is based so heavily on our biology. The most important thing is to connect with a professional who can help you restore emotional balance, peace and happiness to your life,” Bruss said.

HEARING AID FACTS: FACT: You have many choices in Columbus for hearing help. FACT: Many competitors are advertising special offers and promotions. FACT: Many of you are confused. Where do I go? Who do I trust? We want you to consider and trust Echo Hearing & here are facts why you should. “Thank you to everyone at Echo Hearing Systems and Audiology. My new hearing aids are great, I hardly know they are in my ears! I am so pleased with how easy they are to use too! The staff’s training has been wonderful. I can actually hear again when in crowds and at church. Thanks again.” -Earle Bruce

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THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH | Special Advertising Section | WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19, 2014 ■

finance

Protecting your tax refund: Identity-theft prevention tips

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(BPT) — The April 15 income tax-filing deadline is less than a month away. To itemize or not to itemize, deductions, exemptions, interest income and capital gains — you have a lot to think about as you go through the process of filling out forms, whether on paper or online or with a tax preparer. While preparing your return, don’t overlook a consideration that’s every bit as important as whether you owe or are due a refund — tax-related identity theft. Between 2011 and the end of 2013, the IRS said the agency caught and stopped 14.6 million suspicious returns, and doubled indictments and sentencings in fiscal year 2013. Criminals acquire taxpayers’ Social Security numbers and personal information through a variety of means — including data breaches, lost or stolen wallets or old-fashioned dumpster diving — and use it to file fraudulent returns in the hopes of getting a refund. “Tax identity theft is particularly insidious because it targets Americans during a vulnerable, hectic time,” said Trey Loughran, president of the personal solutions unit at Equifax. “The sheer volume of tax identity-theft cases reported by the IRS is astounding. Consumers need to be aware of this growing problem and what steps they can take to help protect themselves.” Fortunately, certain steps can

help Americans minimize tax identity theft risks: D on ’ t wait to file Filing early makes it less likely an identity thief will file first using your name and information. If a crook does attempt to file a fraudulent return in your name, the IRS will be better able to flag it if the agency already has your valid return in hand. G uard your mail During the first months of the year, many important tax documents move through the mail and identity thieves know this. They may steal W-2s, financial statements and other important documents right out of your mailbox. Consider using a locking mailbox or a post office box to receive and send tax documents, or e-file. P rotect

your

PC

and

all your digital devices

E-filing can be a fast, efficient way to do your taxes, but you must protect your computer with up-todate anti-virus and anti-malware software, and use a secure Internet connection. Password protect all your devices. D on ’ t fall for scams If you receive an email, text or phone call that purports to be from the IRS, don’t respond — especially if the request is for personal infor-

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mation. The IRS only contacts you through postal mail, and will never ask you for your personal information. Vet your tax preparer through the Better Business Bureau to ensure you’re dealing with a legitimate tax-prep service. Never sign a blank return for someone else to complete. To protect children and seniors, consider completing Form 8821, which authorizes a person to receive all IRS communications for the individual named on the form. The authorization ensures that if a criminal files a return using your Social Security number or that of a dependent child or senior adult,

you’ll receive all IRS communications. Contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit immediately if you receive a notice from the agency stating more than one tax return was filed for you, that you have a balance for a year you didn’t file, or that you received wages from an employer you don’t know. You’ll also need to file a police report and complete an identity theft affidavit. “Tax-return fraud continues to be a growing threat,” Loughran said. “Taking protective measures can help taxpayers avoid becoming victims of tax-identity theft.”


Mature living spring 2014