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Monthly Archives: July 2015

$58 Billion Unclaimed. Is Some of It Yours?

Today we welcome back guest contributor, Kay H. Bransford, who developed the award-winning MemoryBanc system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. You can read her previous article on how to downsize files and keep up with important documents here.

CNNMoney reported that $58 billion was sitting with state and federal treasurers. It is money lost in a move, a personal crisis, and death. It also includes life insurance, tax refunds, bank and retirement accounts that are forgotten or sit dormant after a death because loved ones didn’t know the assets or accounts existed. If you are planning or just moving into retirement, creating a roadmap to your documents, accounts, and assets is an excellent way to ensure you can easily find information when you need it, as well as prepare for a Plan B should a crisis emerge.

Our world is more complicated than it was just 20 years ago. One home phone number has turned into home and mobile phone accounts to manage; pensions now come in all forms of retirement plan options; and many companies and government agencies are pushing us online to manage medical reimbursements as well as account options. Because we haven’t yet adapted to manage all of this new information, the cost of disorganization to American families is now more than $58 billion and growing.

To see if some of the money sitting with state and federal treasurers is yours, visit MissingMoney.com. This site conglomerates the data from all 50 states. You can search by your name and it is a free service. You should search for yourself and loved ones—especially if you have lost a spouse or other close family member. My sister is the one that told me about this site. She found $2,500 of my dad’s that was sitting in Kansas. We moved from Kansas in 1969! If you find a possible match, you will be referred to the state site that will guide you through the process of validating your identity and claiming funds. We claimed my dad’s money and received the check in about 6 weeks.

If you use the site to search for loved ones, you have the option to email a notice if you have found some money that might be theirs. The site includes unclaimed bank accounts, safe deposit box contents; stocks, mutual funds, bonds, and dividends; uncashed checks and wages; insurance policies, CD’s, trust funds; and utility deposits and escrow accounts.

Check out these additional sites to check for a variety of other unclaimed money pools:

  • To claim S. Treasury securities, look for the section marked “Individuals” and then find a link for “Treasury Hunt.”
  • Visit the FDIC website if you had an account in a failed financial institution.
  • A pension search is offered at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Look for the option under New Visitor? marked to “Looking for an Unclaimed Pension.”
  • To search for unclaimed 401(k) plans on The National Registry of Unclaimed Retirement Benefits. Look for a large button to “Perform a Free Search.”

Take the first step to see if you might be able to claim some of the $58 billion. Happy Hunting!

Kay H. Bransford developed the award-winning system to organize documents, accounts, and assets. Golden Girls Network members will receive a 20% discount using the coupon code “Golden” on any order placed at MemoryBanc.com.

10 Tips for Finding a Great Golden Girls Roommate

Ready to join the movement of mature adults sharing housing? You’ll enjoy an affordable living situation and have the opportunity to make friends for life.

But like all good things, finding a great roommate takes work! But it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are 10 tips to help make your path toward shared housing an easy one.

  1. Join Golden Girls Network! Even if you search and don’t see anyone in your area immediately, join! If you don’t, the next woman (or man) that visits the site won’t know that you’re out there either.
  2. Create a detailed profile. Take the time to tell others what makes you a great roommate. Remember the old adage, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Make yours as fabulous as you are!
  3. Search! And, connect. Be proactive. Don’t wait for others to contact you. Search the network for others that fit your criteria, write to them, and get the conversation going.
  4. Respond! If you receive a message from an interested roommate, give her the courtesy of a response even if you’re in the process of talking to someone else, have already found another roommate, or aren’t interested. Be sure to respond directly to the member contacting you and double check your message is going to her – not back to Golden Girls Network. You’d hope for the same to your inquiries! Plus, you never – even if the person that contacts you isn’t the right fit, she might know someone who is.
  5. Stay engaged. Check your spam. Sometimes inquiries from members end up in your spam folder. Check there! To help inquiries land in your inbox, add info@goldengirlsnetwork.com to your email contacts.
  6. Search again. Didn’t find your match on your first day on the network? Look again! New members are joining daily so there’s always someone new that might be the right fit.
  7. Be flexible. Perhaps there isn’t a Golden Girls home right in your neighborhood. But have you considered one town over? Or a condo instead of a single-family home? We’d never recommend compromising on your non-negotiable criteria, but for other factors, be open to options and alternatives – it will greatly increase the pool of available homes and roommates and you might find something terrific you hadn’t previously considered!
  8. Take your time. Living with a stranger is a big commitment. While some homeowners offer month-to-month leases, even a few weeks can feel like an eternity if the roommate match isn’t a good fit. Spend time interviewing one another up front. Look for any red flags that might make the potential roommate simply not the right fit. There’s a home for everyone so don’t feel bad if you’re not the right lid for someone’s pot.
  9. Update your profile. Once you’ve found your match, update your profile to indicate that you’re not actively looking. You don’t have to leave the network – we love having you! Plus, should you need to move (for whatever reason!) or need to find an additional roommate, your profile will already be there and ready to go.
  10. Bottom line – make it happen! We can’t stress it enough – take an active role in finding your next home or roommate. Registering alone is not enough. You need to search, respond, and engage. By taking a few extra minutes, you’ll set yourself on a path to a great shared housing experience.

If you’re having trouble, we’re here to help! Email us at info@goldengirlsnetwork.com or call us at 301-383-1482 and our fabulous customer service manager, Regina, will be glad to help.

How Seniors Can Avoid Five Popular Online Scams

Although only 36 percent of Americans who reported that they were victims of Internet scams in 2014 were over 50, 50 percent of the recorded losses were from our age group. Americans over 50 lost $339 million last year to online scammers, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Criminals who send fraudulent emails claiming they’re a business, a government official or even a love interest target those of us over 50 because they think we’re an easy target. They think we may have a nice nest egg built up, we may be newer to the technology, or that we’re reluctant to report the crime because we don’t want to appear foolish or unable to manage our own lives. The ICCC believes only 15 percent of victims report the crimes to law enforcement and only 10 percent report them to the ICCC.

If an online criminal has stolen your money or identity, report them. It’s the only way they will be stopped. The AARP Foundation’s ElderWatch program helps individuals fight scammers.

But before it gets to that, here are five of the most reported Internet scams of last year and how to avoid them:

Government Impersonation Email Scam

Scammers sending emails posing as government officials or entities – especially Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey – were able to gain personal information costing people over 50 $6,067,072 in 2014, with an average of $1,450 lost per complaint. Fifty-eight percent of the complaints came from those over 50.

Ways to avoid:

  • Remember: government agencies do not send unsolicited emails.
  • Don’t reply, open any attachments, or click on any links. They can contain malicious code that may infect your computer or mobile phone.
  • Avoid filling out forms in e-mail messages asking for personal information.
  • Forward phishing emails to spam@uce.gov and to the organization impersonated in the email. IRS emails can be sent directly to phishing@irs.gov.
  • Delete the email.

The Intimidation/Extortion Scam

The intimidation/extortion scam involves repeated and harassing emails and calls notifying the victim that a loan is due and must be paid in full. The fraudster usually knows your personal information but will give little information about the loan. Victims are threatened with legal action, arrest and personal violence if they refuse to pay. While only 36 percent of last year’s complainants were over 50, 58 percent of the money extorted — $9,492,910 – came from this age group.

Ways to avoid:

  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals located outside the country.
  • Research individuals to ensure they are legitimate before doing any type of business with them.
  • Report harassing and threatening behavior to the authorities. 

The Romance Scam

The romance scam is a particularly nefarious scam where people are contacted through a website, chat room, or social network by someone looking for companionship or love. This is a slow-moving scam, where intimacy is built up over time until the victim is emotionally attached. Then the criminal presents a convincing scenario – such as a family tragedy or emergency – and asks for money. Of the $86 million (yes, you read that right!!) stolen last year, 70 percent of that came from people over 50 and 59 percent of that — $50,987,931 – came from women over 50.

Ways to avoid:

  • Limit the amount of personal information you reveal on social networking sites.
  • Look for the following red flags if contacted by a romantic stranger online. They could be a fraudster if:
    • They claim to be originally from the United States, but are currently overseas, or going overseas, for business or family matters.
    • They immediately want to get off the web site and onto Yahoo IM or MSN IM.
    • They claim the romance was destiny or fate, and you are meant to be together.
    • Their spelling is atrocious, and their grammar is not consistent with their stated culture.
    • They are not usually around on the weekends to IM.
    • They IM at unusual hours for your time zone.
    • To learn more about romance scams, you can check out RomanceScams.org

Real Estate Fraud

If you’re reading our blog on Golden Girls Network, we know you’re concerned about affordable housing options! Unfortunately there are nasty folks out there who are targeting those of us over 50 seeking affordable housing. Sixty four percent of the $12,598,388 in financial losses to this prevalent fraud last year were by the over 50 crowd. Scammers re-post legitimate housing ads far below rental market value. They typically try to rush the transaction, request that payment be sent by wire funds through a wire transfer service, and may even ask you to fill out credit applications.

Ways to avoid:

  • Be cautious of an individual or company who only accepts wire transfers, pre-paid cards, or cash.
  • Be on alert if they e-mail stating they have to leave the area quickly due to employment or volunteer work. Some claim they left the United States for missionary or contract work in another country.
  • Pay attention to the AARP Foundation ElderWatch’s simplest red flag: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Ignore the deals and stick with legitimate, affordable housing you find on GoldenGirlsNetwork.com

 

Auto Fraud 

The auto fraud scam varies but generally it involves a car posted on a legitimate website that is far under market value. The fraudster claims they must sell the car quickly and will not meet in person, will not allow an inspection and tries to rush the sell. To make the deal appear legitimate, the criminal instructs the victim to wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The fraudster keeps the money but does not deliver the vehicle. This is an equal opportunity crime: in 2014, every age group over 30 was equally affected, with 16,861 victims losing an average of $3,334 per person.

Ways to avoid:

  • Make sure you are purchasing merchandise from a reputable source. Do your homework on the individual or company to ensure that they are legitimate.
  • Obtain a physical address rather than simply a post office box and a telephone number, and call the seller to see if the telephone number is correct and working.
  • Consider not purchasing from sellers who won’t provide you with proper personal and auto information.

Escape the Vacation Rut with a Volunteer Vacation

“Volunteer” and “vacation” may seem like a contradiction of terms – why work on your relaxing holiday? But some travelers over 50 are trading sunning on beaches, standing in line at crowded tourist traps, and taking tours that make you feel like you’re looking at the culture from behind a window for more of an experience. Here are five ways volunteer vacations – also known as voluntourism – can provide boomers with more than photos (and a sun burn) at the end of the adventure.

1. Experience a people, a culture, and an area more richly.

It’s possible to see the Greek island of Crete, the rural countryside of China or the lions of Kenya from the comfort of a tour bus. But with GlobalVolunteers.org, you can fully immerse yourself in the Greek culture as you travel from the coast to a mountaintop school every day for two weeks to teach English to youth and adults with special needs. Volunteer vacations range from one week to months, and depending on how much time you want to spend and how you want to serve, can give you the opportunity to authentically know a people, an area or an effort. You can explore China’s Guangzhou City and its rural outskirts while you build a house for a family with Habitat for Humanity. Or you can track lions and their prey in Kenya with the Earthwatch Institute.

2. Try out new skills or a new industry to prep for a job change.

Thinking about a late career change or finding that doing nothing in retirement isn’t your cup of tea? Skills-based volunteering is a way to learn more about specific industries, gain experience working on different types of teams and gain exposure working in different organizations, according to Mark Horoszowski, co-founder of MovingWorlds.org. Moving Worlds connects people who want to volunteer their skills with social impact organizations around the world. Human resource experts can work in Mexico City for 2-6 months helping find staff for clinics for the blind, and grant writers can work up to two years in India helping to support a wood stove company that reduces toxic fumes and wood consumption.

3. Save money and still enjoy that dream destination.

Volunteer vacations aren’t inherently cheap – many organizations use a portion of what you pay for the trip to contribute to their efforts. Habitat for Humanity uses about half of your trip’s cost to pay for their building efforts. But it is possible to find trips that are inexpensive. MovingWorlds.org offers opportunities that cover the cost of accommodations and/or meals for a one-time $125 membership fee, saving international travelers about $1,500 a week. Globe Aware charges between $700-$1100 for its 1-2 week trips, which covers accommodations, meals, on-site travel, and program expenses. Their website provides info on how to pay your costs with scholarships and other fundraising efforts. Airfare is seldom covered by volunteer vacation opportunities, but FlyforGood.com offers discounted travel for volunteers involved in international humanitarian work.

4. Bond with your Golden Girls housemates.

What better way to connect with your Golden Girls housemates than to share a life-changing experience like volunteering abroad with them? Depending on how large your house is, you may be able to sign up for one of the group or family volunteer vacations offered by many organizations. Both GlobalVolunteers.org and GVIUSA.com put together opportunities for groups. Working together as a house allows you to jointly see the impact of your service, and pooling your efforts to fundraise can help the money-raising process feel less arduous.

5. Give back.

Rather than spending your vacation relaxing on a beach, volunteer vacations can give you the opportunity to affect causes you really care about. Opportunities abound (both nationally and internationally) working with varying groups with volunteer needs. Andrew Mersmann’s blog ChangebyDoing.com highlights the latest volunteer opportunities. This article from TransitionsAbroad.com highlights senior-friendly volunteer vacations. Still can’t find a volunteer vacation you’re interested in? Consider doing it yourself. Put together a trip to an area where you’d like to chip in and call a local service organization with an offer to lend a hand.