By Gail Cunningham, Vice President of Membership and Public Relations at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling
Being in first place usually brings with it bragging rights, but not if it’s the top spot in the Federal Trade Commission’s annual complaint report. For the 12th year in a row, identity theft has held that dubious distinction, as ID theft complaints once again topped the 2011 list. Of more than 1.8 million complaints filed in 2011, 15 percent were related to identity theft.
Although smartphones brought great convenience into people’s lives, they also brought with them another opportunity for thieves to access personal data and use it to their advantage. As a matter of fact, a recent study by Javelin Research found that smartphone users are approximately 33% more likely to become a victim of identity theft than non-users. Further, the Javelin study also revealed that 62% of smartphone users do not use password protection, allowing anyone who finds or steals their phone to have access to the contents which typically includes a vast amount of personal information.
To increase awareness and provide identity theft protection resources, the fifth annual Protect Your Identity Week (PYIW) , held October 20-27, will offer broad-based ID theft protection education in addition to focusing on the threats related to smartphones with the 2012 theme of “ID Theft Protection on the Go.”
During the week, events will be held nationwide in communities across the country, providing consumers with the opportunity to shred sensitive documents free of charge, obtain ID theft protection information, and responsibly recycle unused mobile devices.
It is anticipated that more than 100 events will be held from coast-to-coast. All events are free of charge and open to the public. To locate the PYIW event closest to you, go to www.ProtectYourIDNow.org. Clicking on the website map will provide details of events in your area.
If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and need to have a mastectomy, you have certain rights under the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998. Learn about what benefits your health plan is required to provide.
How to Research Candidates in the Upcoming Election
In less than a month, people across the country will vote for the next president, as well as other state and local offices. If you want to vote, it’s important to make sure you are registered and know about your voting options, such as early voting and requesting an absentee ballot.
It’s just as important that you are familiar with the races on your local ballot so you can make informed decisions. Most state election sites have a list of candidates or a sample ballot. This can help you become familiar with who is running for office.
Check Voter Guides
If you want to learn more about the candidates’ views on topics that matter to you, then you might want to check the candidates’ websites or a voter guide. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, produces an online voter guide where you can find a sample ballot, candidates’ answers to specific questions, and links to the candidates’ websites.
There are many organizations that produce voter guides to encourage voting for certain candidates based on the priorities of the group, such as the environment or health care. These organizations may be able to help you find information about the candidates’ positions on issues that matter to you.
Many state and local organizations, such as newspapers, also produce voter guides. These can be a good way to find additional information about local issues of interest.
If you are unsure of where to look for information about a candidate or want to find a local voter guide, check with your local public library.
Research Voting History
If a candidate is currently in office or previously held office, then you can also view the person’s voting history. In order to do this, you need to know information about a piece of legislation the candidate voted on, such as bill name or number.
If the candidate served in Congress, you can find voting history by visiting Congress.gov and checking the Major Actions tab on a piece of legislation, such as Senate bill 3187. Here you’ll find links to Senate sites that contain a record of the vote on the bill.
Some organizations may also add voting history on specific issues to their voter guides.
Don’t Forget Ballot Measures
In addition to voting for candidates, you may be presented with ballot measures, additional questions about issues impacting your state or local community.
Your state election site or sample ballot should also have information about any ballot measures that you will vote on in November. A state or local voter guide may also include details about the issue that can help you determine how to cast your vote.
What if there was something that would help kids miss fewer days at school? Or if there were a way that parents wouldn’t miss work?
There is something: the flu vaccine. And now is the time to prepare yourself and your loved ones for the flu season.
Getting vaccinated is easy. The Federal Government has several resources to help you figure out if you are considered high risk and where you can get vaccinated.
Everybody over six-months-old should get vaccinated for the flu. However, there are some groups of people who are at higher risk of getting sick and having serious complications from the flu. These are:
Senior Citizens: People who are 65-years-old or older have a weaker immune system and therefore more prone to getting sick. In addition, the flu might create more serious health problems, and even death. That’s why senior citizens should get vaccinated each year.
Young Children: Because their immune system is still developing, young children over the age of six months should be vaccinated against the flu. For those children who cannot get vaccinated, prevention is the best way to protect them.
People Who Are Sick: Flu.gov has a section about the risks of the flu for certain people with health problems, including diabetes, cancer, arthritis and asthma.
Your health care provider can answer your questions about who should get vaccinated and why.
Types of Vaccines
There are two types of vaccines:
Flu Shot. This is the most common type of flu vaccination. It’s given to healthy and sick people, as well as young and old. Senior citizens normally get a higher dose of the flu vaccine.
Nasal Spray. This type of vaccine is for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49, with the exception of pregnant women.
Get your vaccine early in the season because the flu vaccine becomes effective about two weeks after it’s administered, once the body generates antibodies to protect against the flu.
Where to Get Vaccinated
Finding out where to get vaccinated is simple. Visit flushot.healthmap.org and enter your zip code to find the closest pharmacy or vaccination center. You can also search by type of vaccine, so you can find the vaccine that’s right for you.
Track Fundraising and Spending in Federal Elections
Do you ever wonder how much money candidates spend to run in federal elections in the United States or where the money comes from?
The Federal Election Commission’s Campaign Finance Disclosure Portal provides access to the campaign finance data that candidates and their supporters must share by law. Use maps, charts, and other tools to learn about donations and expenditures in the Presidential and Congressional races.
Many people like to buy U.S. Savings Bonds as gifts for loved ones. However, you can no longer buy Savings Bonds on paper from your bank. As a cost saving measure, these bonds must now be both purchased and given electronically. During the process, you get the chance to print out a certificate to physically give the recipient.
This video presentation walks you through the details of buying U.S. Savings Bonds as a gift. Below are some of the basics about the process.
You must create an account with the website TreasuryDirect. TreasuryDirect was created by the U.S. Treasury as a place to buy and redeem U.S. securities. To create this account, you will need to have on hand:
Your Tax ID Number (SSN or EIN)
Your e-mail address
Your bank account and routing numbers
You will need some information about the recipient of the gift:
His or her full name
His or her Tax Identification Number (SSN or EIN)
In order to receive your gift, the recipient will need to have their own TreasuryDirect account. If the recipient is under 18, a parent will need to create a Minor account for the child.
Once your recipient has an account, ask for their account number. You will use this number in TreasuryDirect to send the gift to his or her account.
Find Help and Hope for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence or abuse, often referred to as domestic violence, can be any physical, emotional, sexual or psychological action that one person uses to gain power or control over another.
Anyone, anywhere, regardless of age, race or gender, can be affected by intimate partner violence, and it is important to know the resources available to get help if or when you might need it.
That’s why October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One in three women will experience intimate partner or domestic violence in their lifetime. Young people ages 16-24 are most likely to experience intimate partner violence.
Though it can be difficult to come forward when someone you care about is hurting you or a loved one, having the right resources available can help and provide hope.
If you or someone you know needs immediate help, you can call the toll-free hotline anytime at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health offers additional free resources to anyone facing intimate partner violence. You’ll find help hotlines where you can speak to a counselor 24/7, steps to take to get to safety if you’ve been a victim of assault, information on date rape drugs and much more.
Recognizing the Importance of Mental Health to our Overall Health
By Colleen Labbe, Senior Science Writer/Editor and Press Officer at the National Institutes of Health
Since 1990, the first full week of October has been designated National Mental Illness Awareness Week. This year, National Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place from October 7-13. It reminds us all that our mental health is vitally important to our overall health.
The goal of the National Institute of Mental Health, part of the National Institutes of Health, is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery, and cure.
Mammograms Help With Breast Cancer Early Detection
October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of the month, the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health developed the Pink Ribbon Sunday program to help educate women across the nation about breast cancer prevention and awareness.
Pink Ribbon Sunday aims to reduce breast cancer health disparities in communities by empowering leaders of local groups and organizations to develop mammography awareness programs that fit the needs of their community. Mammography screening is still the best tool to detect breast cancer early. Lack of screening can lead to later diagnosis, later entry into treatment and increased mortality.
Awareness activities include mobile mammography events, local health fairs or “Pink” luncheons to promote the cause.
The FDA’s Office of Women’s Health has put together information packets for individuals or organizations to distribute in their communities. The packets include a mammography information card, mammography fact sheet and an official Pink Ribbon Sunday flyer.
This booklet outlines the various aspects of the home buying process, but starts by asking some key questions to help you determine if you’re ready to buy a home. You’ll also find a worksheet for calculating how much you can afford.
Ongoing stress can increase your risk of many health problems, including heart disease, obesity, depression, and diabetes.
Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but if you feel constant stress and experience physical symptoms (such as headaches, back or neck pain, difficulty sleeping), it’s probably time to take action.
There are things you can do to reduce or cope with stress. Here are a few resources to help you:
Study in the States is a new website that walks you through the steps you need to take in order to study in the U.S., such as getting accepted to school, paying your I-901 SEVIS fee, and applying for a visa. It has information for current and prospective students and exchange visitors.
If you need help, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development handles complaints about housing discrimination, bad landlords in federal housing, and many other issues. For additional local resources, you can also contact a housing counseling agency.
Get Free In-Person One-on-One Financial Planning Assistance
During the month of October, professional financial planners will provide free advice at special one-off Financial Planning Day events in several cities across the country. Bring whatever financial questions you might have, and invite your friends and family to attend.
This all-volunteer group of planners is partnering with city governments to offer no-strings-attached financial advice without selling their services or handing out business cards. They won’t even be using branded pens and paper from the companies they work for.
You can get personalized advice on a variety of areas – retirement planning, credit and debt, budgeting, investments, taxes, insurance, estate planning and small business finances, among many others. Planners will also present classroom workshops addressing key personal finance topics.
Free packets of financial information will be available, as well. Can’t attend any of the Financial Planning Days events? The publications in those packets are also available online:
Voting is a right and a civic responsibility. And like millions of U.S. citizens, you will have the chance to exercise your right to vote during the Presidential Election of 2012.
Your vote on November 6, 2012 will help elect the next President of the United States, as well as other representatives at local, state and federal levels, including mayors, governors, congressional representatives and senators.
Below you will find five important facts about voting in the United States, including resources to help you register to vote and information on how to vote.
1) Voting Is Voluntary
Voting is the essence of democracy. Unlike other countries, voting in the United States is voluntary. Some people vote in person at the polls, while others vote by mail days or weeks before the actual election date. Regardless of how you do it, it’s important that all U.S. citizens who qualify participate in the democratic process of electing public officials.
2) States Establish Voting Rules
To vote in federal elections you need to be a U.S. citizen and be at least 18 years old, although some states allow 17-year-olds to vote. In fact, the states establish voting rules, including the requirements to register to vote, registration deadlines, and where to send your voting form. You may be able to register at a variety of places, including state and local voter registration offices, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and public assistance agencies. You might also be able to register by mail using the National Mail Voter Registration Form, but not all states accept it. Check with your state election office to learn how to register in your state.
3) Voter ID Laws Vary by State
Voter identification requirements also vary by state. Therefore, it’s important to figure out the documents you might need to show before going to your polling place on November 6, 2012. Some states require voters to show proof of identity before voting, such as driver’s licenses, passports or military papers. Your state election office can tell you what documents are required in your state.
4) You Can Vote If You’re Living Abroad
Federal law allows U.S. citizens to vote if they are living abroad. This includes members of the Armed Forces, federal employees, and other U.S. citizens who reside outside the United States. U.S citizens living abroad can request an absentee ballot by using the Federal Post Card Application (PDF). For more information about voting from abroad, visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
5) There Are Several Ways to Participate in the Elections
Voting is not the only way to participate in the electoral process. If you would like to get more involved you can always volunteer at a polling place. Some states have specific requirements such as being a registered voter or meeting certain age requirements. You might have to be affiliated with a political party and reside in the state where you plan to volunteer. Check with your state election office to find out more.