Posted on 1 Comment

Avoiding Scams Targeted at Seniors, Chronically Ill

Fraud and scams against the elderly and disabled have existed for centuries. Scam artists typically identify these groups because they view them as easy to bilk out of their savings. In this era of high tech, fraud has become even easier. In this post, I’ll cover some of the more popular scams, as well as ways to prevent them from happening to you.

Get tips on avoiding scams targeted at seniors and the disabled, from phone scams to phishing scams, to internet and email scams, learn about some of the most popular techniques and how to protect your financial health.

Medicare/Social Security/IRS

Enter to win 1 of 3 awareness products or a Warrior Life Planner from the Zebra pit!
Click to enter through Nov. 25, 2019.

Many disabled and senior citizens rely on Medicare for their healthcare coverage. Many perpetrators may represent themselves as a Medicare representative in order to collect your personal information. Predators may also contact you under the guise that they are updating their records for Social Security, that you’re somehow in violation and in danger of losing your benefits, or under the guise that your social security number has been flagged for fraud. If you get a call from the IRS, they usually tell you you’ve committed fraud and owe back taxes. These are known as phishing schemes.

Whatever the tactic, you’re speaking with someone hoping to scam you into giving them your financial details, social security number or log ins and passwords for these organizations. It’s the policy of government institutions like the IRS, Medicare and Social Security never to contact citizens via phone, especially when informing them of any official change in status. Social Security, Medicare, the IRS and other government agencies notify citizens of problems strictly through US mail or, if you’ve signed up and agreed to certain terms, you may receive your notifications via email.

When you receive a call like this, simply HANG UP. If you’re worried that the call might be valid, simply let them know you will call your local office to verify the information they gave you and terminate the call.

Telemarketing/Phone Scams

Seniors, the disabled and other housebound individuals tend to purchase more over the phone or internet than on average. Telemarketers and scam artists know this, and often use a strategy of offering phony goods or services in order to obtain your financial information. Telemarketing fraud is hard to track since there is no face to face interaction, as well as no paper trail.

It is by far one of the easiest ways to prey on those who would otherwise feel comfortable making a purchase over the phone. Some con artist will offer too good to be true get rich quick schemes, for only a small investment on your part. Other methods include charity scams, or someone claiming to call on behalf of a relative who is ostensibly in some sort of difficult straits and in need of your financial help.

If a company is legitimate, they won’t mind your desire to verify the terms and validity of their offer. If they aren’t forthcoming with details about their company, such as offering a website address and phone number you can call, walk away. There are a million places to get what you need with little to no risk to you.

Internet Fraud

For many the internet has become the best thing since canned beer. To those who are elderly or disabled, purchasing good on the internet may be necessary. You can buy anything over the internet, including your groceries. Many who are home bound depend on the web for shopping, paying bills and banking, as well as social interaction.

As a result, internet fraud has become quite possibly the easiest and most popular way to rob you. Information can be stolen through automated internet scans that can invade your email, or through pop-ups that will scare you into thinking that you need to purchase fake anti-viral software. Even worse, viruses that are designed to steal personal information can be accidentally downloaded to your computer through these pop-ups or fake links sent to you.

Investment Schemes

A good example of this would be that Nigerian prince who keeps emailing you to send him money so that he can come visit you and shower you with riches and affection. Once you send that money, not only does Prince Obiwankenobi have some of your money, he also has your financial information in order to go back for more.

As a former money services associate, I encountered these schemes all the time. Many seniors, as well as others of all ages and walks of life, would come to me to wire money to some pretty strange locations. Part of my job was to try to intuit when someone was being scammed and gently question the customer as to why they were sending large amounts of money to seemingly random places. Luckily, I was able to identify many cases of fraud, and for the most part help some people hold on to their hard earned money.

Ways to Protect Yourself

While combating fraud can seem like a daunting task, it can be done. Here are some red flags to look out for:

Take Advantage Now!!!

Phrases that denote urgency are usually good indicators that something isn’t right. If someone is telling you to “act now” or “there’s no time,” you should definitely take a pause to think before you act. Slowing things down and taking time to think it through will often save you from financial heart ache.

You Want My What?

Never, ever give out personal information over the phone. This is probably one of the simplest ways to steal. I won’t even verify my name over the phone to a stranger, let alone give them my social security number, or whatever else they ask for.

Don’t Touch That Link, You Don’t Know Where it’s Been

Never click on a link that’s been emailed or texted to you by a stranger or unknown organization that you didn’t request information from. These links are designed to steal login information when you do click. Open up a web browser and type in the address yourself. Make sure you delete any emails or texts that contain strange links.

My Password is 1234

Never use a simple password. While they’re easy to remember, they are easy to crack as well. A hacker can figure out your birth date just as easy as you can type it in to your log in. Furthermore, use multiple passwords. If every website with a log in has the same password, imagine how much joy a hacker would jump for, with access to all your accounts.

When in Doubt Consult Someone You Trust

Scammers count on you to be too emotional to think clearly. If you have doubts, talk to someone you trust, such as a relative or an attorney. Before making a rash decision, get a second opinion. Remember if it seems shady or too good to be true, chances are really good that it is.

If You Think You Are the Victim of a Scam

Please report it as soon as possible. It’s not just you these thieves are scamming: There are thousands more just like you who are also victims. The worst action you could take is no action. Here are some available resources you can turn to in cases of suspected fraud:

Furthermore, if you are a victim of fraud, keep in mind that all of your personal information has most likely been compromised. Contact your bank, your credit card companies, any financial institution that you frequent. Replace all of your log-ins with new ones. Remove any credit cards that you may have stored online (for example Apple Pay, or Google Pay).

Fraud is a disgusting, invasive experience that not only robs you of your finances and identity; it will also rob you of your feelings of personal trust and security. It may even rob you of your dignity. Please do not be embarrassed. This is how these scumbags make their living. They have likely bilked thousands of people, and will rob thousands more. Make sure that you take every precaution to protect yourself, and if the unthinkable happens, please speak up. You may have just the tip authorities need to shut them down and you could save thousands from experiencing the same ordeal.

Advertisements
Posted on 4 Comments

Take Five! Spiderman Returns

Five Marvel Characters Spiderman Should Team Up With, Now That He’s Back in the MCU.

If you’re a Marvel geek like I am. You were absolutly giddy over the fact that Sony and Disney patched things up, and that your friendly neighborhood spiderman will continue web slinging in the MCU for the near future. The deal for the short term is that there will be a Spiderman 3, as well as one crossover movie. You may be asking crossover with who? Great question! Here are my five takes on who that hero, or anti-hero, should be.

Take 1: Wolverine

Not just any Wolverine: Only Hugh Jackman as Wolverine will do!

Take 2: Fantastic Four

Spiderman might actually make another FF reboot watchable!

Take 3: Squirrel Girl

A Squirrel Girl movie needs to happen, and Spidey would be a welcome addition!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Take 4: Daredevil

This crossover would be amazing in my opinion. Almost as amazing as my…

Last take of the day: Deadpool

The comic book version of the Spiderman/Deadpool bromance is spectacular. A Spidey/DP cinematic crossover would be legendary! This team-up would be my top pick by far, and possibly a dream come true!

Have a topic you would like us to take on? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments, or drop us an email on our contact page.

Disclaimer: The images, clips and/or videos used here are for illustrative purposes only. All characters and images are property of the original artist and/or brand they represent.

Posted on 1 Comment

Study Points to More Effective Treatment than IV Infusions for Low Blood Volume in OI, POTS

Just in the nick of time, we finish October with a post for Dysautonomia Awareness Month! Back in March of 2016, the Zebra Pit published a post about an upcoming study of oral rehydration salts (ORS) as an effective therapy for dystautonomia. The study was finally completed and published in July of 2019, in The Journal of Pediatrics. Learn about the results of the study, how it was conducted and what it said about the use of ORS versus that of saline infusions.

What is ORS?

Oral rehydration salts (ORS) are a mixture of glucose, potassium, and sodium. ORS was developed by the World Health Organization in the 1940’s to use as an oral rehydration therapy, in place of IV administration. When mixed with water, ORS has been proven to be effective to replace necessary electrolytes that have been lost to acute diarrhea or vomiting caused by diseases such as cholera. ORS is an essential medicine of the WHO, and has saved countless of lives that would have otherwise been lost.

Study Findings

In recent years, studies are starting to show that ORS can also be used as a short term treatment for those with Orthostatic Intolerance due to dysautonomia as well. The study sought to understand the efficacy of ORS and IV saline and whether it could increase blood volume, thereby reducing the effects of OI in the short term. In 2016, the NIH announced it was funding the study conducted by Dr. Marvin Medow, concerning the benefits of ORS with ME/CFS patients who have OI.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Dr Medow tested a total of 35 people with OI and ME/CFS between the ages of 15 to 29. A portion were given placebo, while others received either a litre of saline intravenously, or an oral dose of ORS. After administration, the patients were placed in a lying position, with the lower half of their bodies covered in an airtight chamber,also known as an LBNP tank. The patients were then subjected to varying negative pressure. The pressure was gradually increased until each patient reached particular levels of OI. The testing was grueling: Most of the patients passed out at some point. My heart goes out to these patients and their bravery, but it seems their hard work has paid off. Not only did they prove both IV and oral rehydration salts to be quite effective in treating OI, but they figured out that one is actually more effective than the other:

Changes in normalized orthostatic index (% of that measured without treatment in control (black bars) and subjects with POTS with orthostatic intolerance (gray bars) measured following no treatment (Untreated), after infusion of IV saline, and after ingestion of ORS. Neither saline nor ORS increased orthostatic tolerance in untreated controls (P = .46; n = 15), whereas both IV saline and ORS significantly improved orthostatic tolerance (*P < .05 and **P < .001, respectively; n = 10) in subjects with POTS.” Dr. Medow, et al.

The study revealed that both saline and ORS are effective in the short term treatment of OI. However, the ORS, with it’s combination of sugars, potassium and sodium, was proven to be even more effective than the saline. While simple sodium can help raise blood volume, ORS still seems to be the better option, according to this study. Better yet, ORS is readily available, as well as affordable and it doesn’t require a visit to an infusion center or the use of ports and is obviously much less invasive, providing fewer risks than any venipuncture.

These concerns were what led Michelle to conduct her own study of the use of ORS to improve her POTS symptoms. Michelle has been taking ORS to treat her Orthostatic Intolerance (OI) for nearly three years. It’s proven to us that it can be quite effective and has been a staple in our household for a few years now! I even take it to help keep my own low blood pressure from becoming a problem.

ORS Caveats

Before jumping on the ORS bandwagon, it’s important to note that there are also some potential drawbacks to its use long-term that weren’t addressed in the short term study. Potassium is a very important substance for heart health, and it’s quite possibly part of the reason why ORS is more effective than IV saline, along with the glucose that it contains. However, potassium is something that needs to maintained within a certain range, as too much potassium can also have terrible side effects and fatal consequences.

High potassium levels in the blood can cause kidney failure, type 1 diabetes, Addison’s disease, or heart failure. Before starting any regiment of ORS you should consult with your doctor about whether or not this therapy is right for you and conduct preliminary testing, in addition to doing occasional spot checks to ensure your levels remain within a healthy range.

How often you need to supplement with ORS will largely depend on the individual and may take a bit of trial and error. Intermittent testing can help you get to the right level. For Michelle, who gets more potassium in her diet, it takes a lot more sodium than potassium, so she only supplements 1-2 x per week with ORS, while drinking water infused with sea salt and a small amount of glucose daily.

Some people may also have a hard time adjusting to the taste of ORS. Lucky for them, there are oral rehydration salts that also come flavored. Either way, you get used to the flavor and really come to appreciate the effects. In the end, Michelle decided learning to get used to salty beverages is by far preferable to higher risk, more expensive IV saline.

Where to Find ORS

Oral Rehydration Salts are easy to find, but not with the correct amounts of sodium, potassium and glucose. They also tend to focus more on flavor than quality and are not true WHO approved brands. Trioral brand is the only one I’ve found that is WHO approved and is conveniently available on Amazon:

Don’t need the potassium? Try putting up to a 1/2 teaspoon of natural sea salt into your water several times a day and add a little sweetener, which helps the body to absorb sodium. If you supplement with salt alone, you want to make sure it’s natural and not iodized table salt. You’ll also find you run through it quickly, so it’s good to buy in bulk. We like these brands and types:

No matter how you choose to supplement, it’s important for people with dysautonomia to get enough salt, glucose and potassium. As the highlighted study shows, it can have a huge impact on blood pressure levels, which means fewer dizzy spells on standing, less fatigue and improved symptoms over all. Sometimes medications are also needed to help manage this complex condition, but the first line of defense should also include these important electrolytes, which should be monitored periodically through testing. Remember, any and all changes to your healthcare regimen should be discussed with your care team first.

Do you already supplement with ORS or a similar product? What are some of the benefits you’ve found?

Resources and Further Reading

David Curtis lives in Florence, KY with his wife Michelle, 2 Russian Blue cats and his many fish. David manages the pet department of a prominent retail chain in addition to caring for his wife, pets and home. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, exploring history, watching football, sci-fi, fantasy or comic book shows and film, along with fighting for truth, justice, and the human condition. Much like Tyrion Lannister, he also drinks (coffee) and knows things.

Posted on 4 Comments

Take Five! On a Remake of ‘The Princess Bride’

Please note this post contains affiliate links. Thank you.

Here at The Zebra Pit, we do our utmost to educate and commiserate on the topics of health and well being. However, we do realize that not everyone wants to spend 100% of their time focusing on one subject, not even us! In the interest of branching out and sending a little entertainment your way, we will be publishing a new column named ‘Take Five!’ and we’ll try to post them twice monthly.

We came up with Take Five because we want to offer our readers a quick mental break from the pain, symptoms and stress of chronic illness. We’ll choose a topic (suggestions are welcome) and share 5 quick and funny takes on it.

Without further adieu, we bring you the first Take Five!

What do we think about Sony Pictures idea to remake the classic cult film 'The Princess Bride'? Take a look at our five takes on the idea; a new series that provides a fun, brief distraction from all of life's woes!

In our inaugural edition, our first topic is going to be The Princess Bride, the classic Rob Reiner film from 1987. This movie is as close to perfection as one can get. It was a wonderfully funny and romantic story with an amazing cast. This movie is timeless. Furthermore, it may just be one of the most quoted movies of all time. Case in point:

Perfection, am I right? Well, one movie production company apparently doesn’t think so. Sony pictures let it be known recently that they are considering a Princess Bride remake.

Tweet courtesy of Variety

Take #1

Even though Sony later stated that no such plans are in the works, I still find the notion of a PB remake…

Here’s one of those quotes I was telling you about!

I get that people love to see their favorite stories retold with a different spin, and a different cast. Hell, we recently watched the newest version of A Star is Born, and it was amazing! This however is not a movie to be remade, which brings me to:

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Take #2

Nobody seems to want this! Most fans of the movie vehemently do not want a remake, and who can blame them? I don’t want one. Michelle doesn’t want one. Even Senator Ted Cruz doesn’t want to see it. (Oops sorry, no politics). I think the internet’s response was summarized exceptionally by this tweet:

If Dread Pirate Roberts doesn’t want this, who does?

Take #3

Can we all just admit there are no more original ideas in the entertainment industry? Sure, there are original takes and concepts, but no more original ideas. They are gone, done, terminado. If you can conceive it, it’s probably already been told to death. Sure, some would argue against my opinion:

Sorry Miracle Max, originality in movies is dead-dead. Not even true love can save it!

Take #4

Seriously, if The Princess Bride gets a redo, I’m calling the Brute Squad!

R.I.P. Andre the Giant.

Last Take of the Day

One last message to Hollywood about their concept of “originality”.

Have a topic you would like us to take on? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments, or drop us an email on our contact page.

Disclaimer: The images, clips and/or videos used here are for illustrative purposes only. All characters and images are property of the original artist and/or brand they represent.

Posted on 4 Comments

Bringing the D: Benefits of the Sunshine Vitamin

Please note this post contains affiliate links. Thank you.

What is Vitamin D?

Did you know that Vitamin D is not really a vitamin? In actuality, it’s a steroid, with hormone like qualities. D helps to synchronize the tasks of at least 200 genes that we know of, while playing a major role in our physical advancement. The majority of D comes from the sun: our skin absorbs ultraviolet rays, which is then converted into D. Scant amounts of D can also be absorbed into the body through what we eat.

How Does it Work?

Vitamin D comes in two forms; D2 and D3. D3 is synthesized through the skin via the sun. D2 is converted through what we ingest orally. When D is absorbed into the body, it is sent to the liver, which converts it into a chemical called 25(OH)D. The 25(OH)D is then distributed throughout your body so that various tissues can convert it into a hormone known as active Vitamin D (calcitriol). After the conversion, D helps to regulate the calcium in your bloodstream, bones, and digestive system. It also helps cells communicate in a more organized fashion.

How Does it Help?

1- Through D’s management and distribution of Calcium, it is crucial to maintaining healthy bones. In fact, both rickets and osteoporosis are linked to Vitamin D deficiencies.

2- While scientific research hasn’t conclusively proven that D can bolster the immune system, scientists feel that there is enough evidence to indicate that it may help in improving autoimmune functions that are compromised. While Vitamin D may not prevent infections such as influenza, it has been proven that it does impact T-cells, thus supporting the inflammatory process which helps us to recover in due time.

3- D can also help with Diabetes. Sufficient D levels can help with insulin secretion, as well as glucose tolerance.

4- Sufficient D levels may also reduce the risk of childhood diseases such as asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in today's world, yet it provides so many benefits. Deficiency has been found to be linked with diabetes, autoimmune disease, rickets, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, Alxheimer's and Depression. Learn more about what it is, how to get enough and what levels are safe a practical if you need to supplement this powerful sunshine vitamin.

5- Vitamin D can help women get through a healthy pregnancy. Healthy levels help to reduce the risk of preclampsia, gestational diabetes, and vaginal bacteriosis.

6- D can also help cancer patients, by slowing growth of new blood vessels in cancerous tissue. This can result in cancer cell death, or at the least, the retardation of cancer cell growth.

7- Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, depression, as well as many autoimmune diseases.

How Much do I need?

While no two persons have the same requirements, it is recommended that between 400 to 800 IU be taken daily to keep healthy levels of 25(HO)D in your bloodstream. However, this amount may not be sufficient for everyone and can vary based on regular exposure to sunshine, obesity levels, age, skin color, health, etc. While D is stored in fat, overdosing on D has not really been an issue. You would have to take over 50,000 IU a day for a prolonged period of time, which could result in a toxic build up of calcium and phosphates in the blood stream.

If you’re a person with issues of severe deficiency due to health conditions, you may need to take as much as 3,000-10,000 IU per day to reach sufficient levels of Vitamin D, like myself and Michelle, who are at opposite ends of these ranges. As always, I caution everyone to consult with their healthcare team before starting any supplement. A blood test will reveal the level of 25(HO)D that exists, and your doctor should know based on that testing what amount is right for you. Once you’re taking D, it’s a good idea to retest your levels periodically to make necessary adjustments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Where can I find D?

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in today's world, yet it provides so many benefits. Deficiency has been found to be linked with diabetes, autoimmune disease, rickets, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's and Depression. Learn more about what it is, how to get enough and what levels are safe a practical if you need to supplement this powerful sunshine vitamin.

The sun is the best way to get it. As little as 30 minutes of exposure to 40% percent of your skin can produce as much as 90% percent of D needed to maintain healthy bones and cells. However, exposure to much needed D producing UV rays can be inhibited by climate, season, and skin color. Exposure can also be limited by how much one is actually able to get out doors! Vitamin D is also found in fish, cod liver oil, eggs, mushrooms, fortified milk, orange juice and yogurt, as well as beef liver and fortified cereals. Supplements are also a good way to build up D intake: In fact, I take a D supplement which has worked well in maintaining my 25(HO)D levels in my bloodstream. So far, every blood test given to me has resulted in sufficient levels of active vitamin D.

If you decide to supplement D, here are some of our tried and true organic, Non-GMO and soy-free favorites from Amazon arranged by potency:

It’s D-lightful!

Vitamin D is necessary for healthy living. It promotes bone growth. It facilitates communication in over 200 cells. It a mainstay for a healthy pregnancy, as well as a healthy childhood. It may help to stave off or slow major diseases such as Diabetes or Cancer. It will even vacuum your floor! Alright, that last claim is fictitious: However, Vitamin D will assist in maintaining strong healthy bones, which will allow you to run your vacuum cleaner without snapping a femur or tibia :). Many people suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Please get your blood levels tested. You may find that your 25(HO)D levels are low, and that Vitamin D may be exactly what you need to up your health and wellness game!

Sources

  1. Naeem, Zahid. “Vitamin D Deficiency- An Ignored Epidemic.” International Journal of Health Sciences.
  2. Ware, Megan. “What Are the Health Benefits of Vitamin D?” Medical News Today.
  3. Gruber-Bzura, Beata M. “Vitamin D and Influenza-Prevention or Therapy?” International Journal of Molecular Sciences.
  4. NIH. “Vitamin D Fact Sheet.”
  5. Vitamin D Council. “Testing for Vitamin D.”
  6. Harvard TH Chan School of Health. “The Nutrition Source: Vitamin D.”

David Curtis lives in Florence, KY with his wife Michelle, 2 Russian Blue cats and his many fish. David manages the pet department of a prominent retail chain in addition to caring for his wife, pets and home. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, exploring history, watching football, sci-fi, fantasy or comic book shows and film, along with fighting for truth, justice, and the human condition. Much like Tyrion Lannister, he also drinks (coffee) and knows things.

Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem in today's world, yet it provides so many benefits. Deficiency has been found to be linked with diabetes, autoimmune disease, rickets, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, Alzheimer's and Depression. Learn more about what it is, how to get enough and what levels are safe a practical if you need to supplement this powerful sunshine vitamin.