Tag Archives: Prevention

10 Tips to Avoid Tax-Time ID Theft

When is the one time during the year you have every single financial document in one place?

Answer: Tax time!

Here are tips from WhatHappensNow and our interview with the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse:

  1. Start a Tax Folder – Keep all of your tax forms, files and scratch paper together in a folder or binder. Keep the folder safe and with you at all times.
  2. Extra Documents – Need a copy of old tax returns, filing instructions or other important information? Head to IRS.gov for fact sheets and other publications.
  3. Don’t Throw! Shred! - Throwing away old records? Use a cross-cut shredder before discarding. Make sure you know what to keep and what to toss: read the IRS’s information on how long you should keep your records.
  4. Phishing for Information
    Watch out for “phishing” e-mail scams. These fraudulent emails might look like they’re coming from a financial or government institution (IRS) but are really scammers trying to get your personal or financial information.
  5. E-filing
    Check your to see if your spyware and anti-virus software is turned on and up-to-date before entering data and sending off your completed forms.
  6. Direct deposit refunds or payments
    Make sure to double-triple-quadruple check your account and routing numbers on your paper or online forms before sending them in.
  7. Keep Copies
    Make sure to keep copies of all the forms and returns you send in.
  8. Sending Tax Returns or Checks by Mail
    Do not leave outgoing checks or mail with sensitive information in your mailbox – they could be stolen. Instead, avoid mail theft by mailing all items at the post office.
  9. Refunds in the Mail
    If you’re expecting a refund or important information, pick up your mail as soon as you have the chance. If you’re headed out of town, arrange for your mail to be held at the post office or have a friend or neighbor pick it up.
  10. Think you might be a victim of ID theft? Read this.

– Susan

Check the Smoke Detectors in Your Home

Having a working smoke alarm reduces your chance of dying in a fire by nearly one-half, according to the United States Fire Administration (USFA).  You should have smoke alarms on every level of your home and outside bedrooms.  If you keep bedroom doors closed, put a smoke alarm in each bedroom

Here are more smart tips from their site:

  1. Test your alarm and check or replace your batteries today, along with the following ‘starter list.’
  2. Make sure you have smoke alarms and fire extinguishers for each floor of your home. Check with your fire department or building code official if there are code requirements for additional alarms.
  3. Many hardware, home supply or general merchandise stores carry smoke alarms.
  4. Make sure the alarm you buy is UL-listed. The Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent, not-for-profit, product-safety testing and certification organization and has tested products for public safety for more than a century.

What to know about smoke detectors

There are two different types of smoke detectors available:

  1. Ionization smoke detectors typically are better at detecting fast flaming fires, which consume combustible materials rapidly and spread quickly. Examples of fast flaming fires include paper burning in a wastebasket, or a grease fire in the kitchen.
  2. Photoelectric smoke detectors generally are more effective on slow smoldering fires. These are fires that smolder for hours before bursting into flames, such as when a lighted cigarette is dropped onto a couch or bedding.

Things to know about these detectors -

  1. Some detectors have a dual sensor, which can detect both ionization (fast flames) and photoelectric (smoldering) fires.
  2. Consider purchasing ‘wireless’ or ‘interconnected’ alarm systems. This means when one alarm goes off, it will trigger the other alarms.
  3. Follow instructions for proper use and installation.
  • Generally speaking, the smoke alarms should be near bedrooms, either on the ceiling or six to twelve inches below the ceiling on the wall.
  • If on the ceiling, the smoke detector should be mounted away from corners and walls (at least 8-10 inches away).
  • In a room with a pitched ceiling, a smoke detector should be mounted at or near the ceiling’s highest point.
  • Locate smoke alarms away from air vents.

Smoke detector facts and care

  1. Smoke alarms should be replaced every eight to ten years.
  2. Consider writing the purchase date on your alarm with a permanent marker. That way, you’ll know when to replace it.
  3. Smoke detectors should not be painted.
  4. Test! Press the “test” button for a few seconds – this will activate the alarm.
  5. Clean! Smoke alarms are particle-sensitive and dust, lint or cobwebs can limit its ability to detect smoke. Keep smoke alarms clean by vacuuming the surface and around the alarm with a vacuum attachment.
  6. Replace the batteries twice a year, or earlier if necessary. (Here’s a WHN reader tip – Change smoke detector batteries when you change your clocks for Daylight Savings Time.)
  7. Never disconnect a good smoke detector battery if it alarms due to cooking or to use the battery for other purposes. You may not remember to put the batteries back in after cooking.

Conduct home fire drills monthly to test the condition of your equipment and ensure your family knows what to do in the event of a fire. Periodically, test the smoke alarm when your children are sleeping: reports show that children often sleep too soundly to hear the alarm.

Here’s another WHN reader tip: If you have children or elderly adults in your home, they may sleep through the alarm. Consider alternative devices such as voice warning systems or low frequency alarms. Use these together with regular smoke detectors.

– Susan

    Evacuations in Iowa

    Over 10,000 residents in Cedar Rapids have been forced to evacuate their homes after a Cedar River levee burst. Waters are still rising and volunteers are doing everything they can to sandbag roads. 

    Officials are also predicting major widespread flooding along the Mississippi River, which could be the worst flooding since 1993.

    So what can you do now to prepare for flooding and flood waters that may head your way? Top tips from emergency preparedness experts:

    1. Purchase flood insurance. Mind you this takes at least 30 days to go into effect. Learn more…

    2. Know your vulnerability level. Buying a new home? Ask about past floods and water damage. Top steps you can take to prepare your home for disasters…

    3. Know the routes to higher ground or out of your town. Get a map and highlight alternative routes to the main roads out of town. Next time you run an errand, pay attention and look to see where the highest points are – mark those on the map.

    4. Want more? Top flood prevention and preparedness tips…