03-23-17 Columns

Help protect older adults from financial abuse

Financial exploitation costs older Americans billions of dollars per year, according to several sources, including the National Council on Aging. If you have older parents, could they be vulnerable to financial scams and rip-off artists? And, if so, what can you do to help protect them?

Unfortunately, it is possible for anyone to become a victim. For a variety of reasons, older adults may be easier targets than younger people. And that is why, when interacting with your parents, you should look for these warning signs:

Suspicious new relationships – If your parent mentions something about a new friend, a romantic partner or some type of caregiver who seems to have taken a great interest in your parent’s financial situation, you may have reason to be suspicious. Do not be afraid to ask some questions.

Multiple checks written to same person or entity – If you think your parents may be making questionable financial moves, ask to see their checkbook. If you see several checks written to an unfamiliar person or business, you might be viewing evidence of a financial scam. If so, you will want to intercede before your parents get victimized again.

Changing power of attorney or beneficiaries –If your parents suddenly decide to name someone new as their “agent” (the person responsible for carrying out a power of attorney), you may need to investigate. And the same is true if your parents change the beneficiary designation on their investment accounts or insurance policies.

Unusual urgency to make an investment – If you learn that your parents want to make some type of investment “immediately,” you should be concerned. No reputable financial professional would ever pressure them – or anyone else – to “act now” on an investment.

Apart from watching out for the above signs of trouble, what else can you do to help guard your parents from fraudsters?

For starters, urge your parents – repeatedly, if necessary – to never give out personal information over the phone or online. Scammers have gotten quite clever at impersonating legitimate businesses or organizations – for example, unless you are looking closely at the email, you might think the logo of a bank or another company is being accurately depicted. Again, though, reputable businesses typically don’t send messages that are demanding, threatening or otherwise employing some type of extreme language.

Also, stress to your parents that they should never wire money to a random account. Plus, remind them about the truth of “no risk” offers: Any financial offer that sounds too good to be true is just that – untrue. Every legitimate investment carries both risks and rewards.

Here’s another suggestion: Older adults who have debt problems may be especially vulnerable to offers that claim to “clear up” all their debts. But there’s no quick fix to this problem, and any caller who claims otherwise is likely being deceitful. Encourage your parents to discuss their debt situation with an honest, professional debt counselor or a financial advisor.

Finally, if your parents don’t already work with a trusted, qualified financial professional, introduce them to one.

Your parents worked hard all their lives. Do what you can to help them enjoy their “golden years” in dignity.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Colorectal cancer awareness

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a perfect opportunity to talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening.

While colorectal cancer remains the nation’s second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women, the good news is that it can be prevented and found at an early stage. In Michigan this year, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be 4,570 cases of colorectal cancer and 1,640 deaths due to the disease.

Adults age 50 and older should be regularly screened for colorectal cancer. Unfortunately, many people aren’t getting tested because they don’t believe they are at risk or they aren’t aware of the different testing or screening options. The importance of early detection cannot be overstated. This Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, make it a priority to discuss the different testing options with your provider.

Through proper colorectal cancer screening, doctors can find and remove hidden growths (called “polyps”) in the colon before they become cancerous. Removing polyps can prevent cancer altogether.

Colorectal cancer risk increases after age 50. However, if you have a family history of colorectal cancer polyps, talk with your doctor about starting testing before age 50. Many cases of colorectal cancer have no symptoms especially early on when it can be more effectively treated.

There are several screening options available including colonoscopy and simple take-home tests. Many health insurance plans including the Healthy Michigan Plan cover lifesaving preventive tests. Check with your health plan to find out the details of what colorectal cancer screening is covered.

For resources for uninsured residents, and for more information about testing and prevention, visit www.michigan.gov/mdhhs.

Bringing increased transparency to Lansing

As I have written in this column previously, my colleagues and I in the House are committed to making state government more open, transparent, and accountable. I firmly believe that a government that is more accountable to the people is a better government.

Earlier this year, the House posted salary information for all employees, including legislators, on its website. Last week we took a significant further step towards an open and accountable state government by passing bipartisan legislation to increase citizen access to government records. The 11-bill package we approved will subject the governor and lt. governor’s offices to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and create the Legislative Open Records Act (LORA). I was proud to vote yes on this important legislation, and each of the bills in the 11-bill package received unanimous support, demonstrating how strongly the House believes in this goal.

For far too long Michiganders have not had the access to state government records that they deserved, and because of that were unable to as easily hold politicians accountable for their actions. These bills deliver on both of those counts, and will truly raise the ethical bar for state elected officials who play such a significant role in the lives of all hardworking Michiganders. I hope that the State Senate will move quickly to pass these bills so that we can deliver the transparent and accountable government you deserve and ensure that Michigan joins virtually every other state in having a transparent legislature and executive office.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.

The Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament is back!

School spirit encompasses a wide range of school activities, such as band, drama, robotics, athletics and art, and no one has more school spirit than Southwest Michigan.

I am proud to once again sponsor the Southwest Michigan Spirit Tournament to get our local students and communities involved in a celebration of our schools in a way that inspires creativity.

The response to this contest during its first three years was phenomenal, and the 2017 competition is underway. It began on March 20 and will span five weeks, ending at noon on April 21.

The 31 area high schools in the tournament were divided into four brackets named for features that characterize Southwest Michigan.

Like in the NCAA basketball tournament, schools will compete in a single-elimination bracket contest, and those with the most points will move on each week.

There are several ways to earn points, such as voting in polls or submitting unique photos about your school.

For complete contest rules, visit www.SenatorJohnProos.com/Southwest-Michigan-Spirit.

Visitors to my Facebook page, John Proos Supporters Page, can also upload photos and earn bonus points when others “like” the photo. Another way to earn points is to follow me on Twitter and send a tweet to @JohnMProos that includes the school name and the hashtag #SWMISpirit.

I encourage students and alumni to show their school spirit and pride and seize this chance to showcase what makes their school great.

As always, I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on the important issues facing Michigan. You can contact me at 517-373-6960.

Fighting for our farmers

 In recent days, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and meet with dozens of Southwest Michigan farmers. Last week, I met with members of the Michigan Farm Bureau out here in Washington, D.C. During the past weekend, I traveled to Eau Claire to meet with the Southwest Michigan Growers group, and on Monday I was down in Cass County for their Farm Bureau Legislative Breakfast.

 These meetings have been productive and informative. Farmers are the backbone of our Southwest Michigan economy and we discussed ways we can work together to improve their economic outlook and provide much-needed certainty so they can plan for the future. We also had frank and open discussions about our broken immigration system and the negative effect it has on our agricultural labor workforce. When farmers can’t be sure of when – or whether – they will have the workforce they need to harvest their products, it has led to millions of dollars’ worth of fruits and vegetables to be left in the field – a financial drain for farmers and an unnecessary waste of food.

Hearing from our farmers is one of the reasons I recently signed on as a co-sponsor to H.R. 1468, the Recognizing America’s Children Act. This legislation provides legal status to undocumented children and young adults who have been thoroughly vetted by the Department of Homeland Security. This would provide needed certainty for many families and local farmers dependent on migrant labor.

I was also glad to see that the new administration will begin eliminating the Waters of the U.S. rule that was finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2015. This onerous rule has always been opposed by farmers, including those in Southwest Michigan. I, too, have fought against this law and voted to overturn it in 2015.

I continue to stand with our farmers and look forward to being a constructive partner into the future.

To learn more about this and other important legislative issues, please visit my website: upton.house.gov or call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

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