(NewsUSA) - Each tax season, identity thieves find new ways to con honest taxpayers. This year is no different as the IRS warns about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.
Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver's license. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile -- apparently to instill fear.
Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, phone scammers sometimes call back trying a new strategy.
The following are common characteristics of this scam:
* Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
* Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim's social security number.
* Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it's the IRS calling.
* Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
* Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
* After threatening victims with jail time or driver's license revocation, scammers hang up, and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you know you don't owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes -- for example, you've never received a bill, or the caller made some bogus threats as described above -- call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
If you've been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their "FTC Complaint Assistant" at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.
Find help. A taxpayer who believes they may have received a fraudulent or questionable communication related to taxes should contact a licensed tax professional. Enrolled agents (EAs) are America's tax experts. They are the only federally licensed tax practitioners who specialize in taxation and also have unlimited rights to represent taxpayers before the IRS. That means that if you get a letter from the IRS, or worse, are audited or are the target of a collection action, your EA can speak directly to the IRS on your behalf. Learn more at www.naea.org.
(NewsUSA) - Up until the mid-1940s, tooth decay plagued the nation. Case in point: in 1942, almost 10 percent of the 2 million men examined by the Army were rejected for service because they didn't have 12 solid teeth out of 32.
Then came fluoride -- a mineral added in small amounts to tap water that would harden teeth and protect people's pearly whites from cavities.
Since then, the debate over fluoride has escalated to become one of the country's most contentious health issues and concerns.
Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insists there is no verifiable link between fluoridated water and illnesses such as tooth discoloration, hip fractures and bone cancer as some suggest, opponents of fluoride, aren't convinced.
"Our job is putting out safe water. We're not in the business of medicating people," Kevin Cridge, water quality supervisor at Hampton Shaler Water Authority, told the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. "We shouldn't be doing anything that actually doesn't treat or purify the water."
Fast-forward almost 70 years, and now there are options for those who prefer to know what's in the water they're drinking. Bottled water can be a better option, but which brand? The choices can be mindboggling.
To get the most from the water you're drinking, you may want to opt for purified, enhanced water, such as Alkame Water. While other waters might satisfy your thirst, Alkame includes a distinctive alkalinity, as well as high levels of stabilized, dissolved oxygen that help maintain the natural pH balance in the body. In short, that means that a more balanced pH can help your body resist and fight illnesses. In addition to hydrating your body more effectively, Alkame can improve your metabolic function, boost your immune response and neutralize cancer-causing free radicals.
Better yet, there is no fluoride in Alkame Water.
"If someone were to ask me, 'What is the one thing I can do to have better health?' then the answer would be simple: 'Start drinking alkaline, ionized water,'" says Robert O. Young, PhD and author of the "The pH Miracle."
Alkame Water is based in Las Vega, Nevada, and is a wholly owned subsidiary of Alkame Holdings Inc. (OTCQB: ALKM). For more information about Alkame Water, including how to have it delivered to your home or office, visit www.alkamewater.com.
(NewsUSA) - If your vacation home has started to become more of a financial headache than a refuge, it might be time to consider renting out your property.
According to industry experts, an average vacation home can garner an owner an extra $30,000 of income per year.
"Renting out your vacation home can open up a significant stream of revenue," says Mary Lynn Clark, president of Wyndham Vacation Rentals North America. "Understanding the business side, and all it entails, however, is a critical part of increasing your home's value without adding hassle."
Before listing your home for rent, it's important to decide whether you will handle the details yourself (think booking, reservations, marketing, maintenance and management) or hire a vacation rental firm.
While doing it all yourself may sound like a good idea (and the Internet has certainly made that a viable option with hundreds of rental listing sites), a recent study shows that owners spend an average of more than eight hours per week marketing and managing their vacation properties. This translates to a heavy time commitment that few people have.
Clark likens it to performing maintenance on your car.
"The average car owner doesn't change their own oil or replace their own brake pads," he said. "They leave it up to the professionals to do that. Why should it be any different for managing your vacation property?"
To take advantage of the added income, without having to invest a significant amount of time, professionally managed vacation rental companies provide the perfect balance. Typically, these firms assume responsibility for marketing and managing your property and taking care of any requests by the renters.
Professional management companies, such as Wyndham Vacation Rentals, can help keep your property occupied by using its vast network of resources and commitment to take care of guests' experiences.
Unlike other vacation rental companies, Wyndham offers a host of unique benefit programs along with dynamic pricing to get owners the most value possible. Most importantly, it offers a Vacation Rental Bill of Rights that assures guests that Wyndham will take care of their needs every step of the way.
To learn more, visit www.wyndhamvacationrentals.com.
(NewsUSA) - As baby boomers retire in record numbers -- 10,000 Americans a day -- more seniors than ever will be asking themselves, "How do I choose a Medicare health plan that's right for me?"
"Seniors should look for a high-quality health plan that has a team of doctors and specialists, who work together to coordinate your care and keep you healthy," said Patrick Courneya, M.D., medical director, Kaiser Permanente Medicare Health Plans.
Dr. Courneya offers these five important tips to help older adults make an informed decision for a healthy future:
1. Know when to enroll. Anyone who first becomes eligible for Medicare as they turn 65 can enroll during the three-month period before or after their 65th birthday. Those who choose to enroll after this window of time may pay a late-enrollment penalty. Medicare-eligible members may join or change plans during open enrollment from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7 each year, or they can join a Medicare five-star quality-rated plan nearly all year long. See tip four for star ratings details.
2. Know the difference between Medicare and Medicare Advantage. Medicare is the national health insurance program that began in 1965 and covers millions of Americans who are 65 and older, and those with certain disabilities. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private organizations and approved by Medicare. Some Medicare Advantage plans offer extra benefits such as vision. Enrollment trends show that nearly one in three people who have Medicare are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan.
3. Confirm health plan doctors accept new Medicare members. Choose a Medicare health plan that offers a network of doctors and specialists who accept new Medicare members. Some physicians are opting out of caring for Medicare members. Also, keep in mind, as Medicare members age, they may need access to more specialists who accept Medicare members.
4. Use the Medicare 5-star Quality Ratings Tool. The Medicare Star Quality Ratings system was created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to help beneficiaries choose high-quality Medicare health plans. Plans receive an overall rating from one to five stars, with five being the highest for quality and service. Medicare members have the benefit of joining a five-star plan nearly all year -- from Dec. 8 through Nov. 30 of the next year. They must be eligible and live where a five-star plan is offered.
5. Review your health care needs annually. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that many beneficiaries -- once enrolled in a Medicare health plan -- don't often feel confident they made the right choice, and don't review their plan if their health care needs change. Medicare enrollees can use the Medicare star ratings to help them feel confident about choosing a high-quality plan.
The Kaiser Permanente Medicare health plans in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C. received 5 stars -- the highest possible Medicare rating for 2015. Kaiser Permanente's Georgia plan received 4.5 stars for 2015.
Star ratings information can be found on kp.org/medicarestars or by calling 1-877-425-7892. Plans are rated each year and may change from one year to the next.
(NewsUSA) - Everyone is starting to spruce up their homes for holiday entertaining. According to the American Lighting Association (ALA), it's easy to make your home warm and inviting by updating your ambient lighting.
Start with the exterior.
The holidays typically involve gatherings, which means your outside lighting is an important element for giving your home a welcoming feel.
"Landscape lighting can solve a lot of different problems," says Joe Rey-Barreau, education consultant for the ALA and associate professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Interior Design.
Rey-Barreau says this can include path lighting to direct guests to your home, and suggests you consider LED lighting, which is energy efficient and has a long lifespan.
Brent Protzman, manager of energy information and analytics at Lutron Electronics, also offers some exterior lighting tips.
"To create a magnetic, inviting exterior, first provide general facade illumination to highlight the form of your home's exterior and avoid dark areas near the main entrance," Protzman says. "Adding landscape lighting to trees, shrubs and walkways is also welcoming."
Welcome guests as they enter.
Given the colder temperatures and snow, your guests will spend some time in your entryway to peel off winter coats and boots. With this in mind, you do not want them fumbling around in the dark. Rick Wiedemer, president of Hinkley Lighting, says your foyer should always have a central fixture.
"For a two-story foyer, use a large hanging fixture," Wiedemer says. "A one-story foyer is going to have a nice flush or semi-flush decorative piece."
Protzman and Rey-Barreau both suggest installing dimmers as well.
"Having the entry lighting too intense can be uncomfortable after coming in from a dark exterior," Protzman says. "Consider using a dimmer in an entryway to cut the intensity at night and reduce potential glare and discomfort."
Create a warm ambience.
Your home heating system and a fireplace are not the only ways you can chase away the freezing temperatures outside. The color temperature of your lighting can lend to a warm atmosphere.
"We believe 2700 Kelvin is the most used and most pleasant," Wiedemer explains. "It is most like normal outside lighting without looking into the sun."
LED light bulbs can also enhance your ambient lighting. Some LEDs are tunable so you can adjust the color temperature with a built-in dial or a smartphone app. Additionally, you can find color-changing LED products if you want to alter the theme to match the holiday.
Visit a local ALA showroom or americanlightingassoc.com to learn more.
(NewsUSA) - What is your everyday routine? Now, consider what it would be like if you had an accident or health condition that changed or prevented your daily activities.
When you sustain an injury to a bone or joint in your body, the things that are inherently second nature can be temporarily disrupted and inhibit you from doing those things you truly enjoy. That is, until you restore your mobility with orthopaedic care and rehabilitation.
Many people, of all ages, in the U.S. are faced with mobility limitations that require orthopaedic intervention. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), one in four Americans suffers from an impairment that impacts their ability to move.
To inspire patients to fight for their mobility and promote the value of orthopaedic care to society, the AAOS started the "A Nation in Motion" campaign. This initiative focuses on stories of patients who have experienced a "Second First," the point in time when a patient, who had lost the ability to do something because of his or her orthopaedic condition, can do the act once again. Patients who are looking for advice to help restore their everyday lives can find a surgeon close to their location, research bone and joint health procedures and risks, read other patients' experiences and peruse pain management tips.
To help patients develop realistic goals about their recovery, Dr. Elizabeth G. Matzkin, assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, and chief of Women's Sports Medicine, prefers to assess her patient's surgical recovery and rehabilitation expectations with in-depth interviews.
"Sometimes I tell people: 'I'm so glad you're not in any pain or that you're not uncomfortable, but you need to take it easy so this heals.' A lot of procedures take at least three months to heal," said Dr. Matzkin.
According to the AAOS, "all surgeries have a minimum recovery time during which the patient will not be able to participate in all of the activities he or she did before the surgery, injury or onset of their orthopaedic condition."
"I have patients who say, 'I will work really hard; I'm a fast healer.' And I say, 'The recovery is still recovery,'" said Dr. Matzkin.
Visit ANationInMotion.org to learn more about how you can fight for your mobility or reach your Second First.
(NewsUSA) - Google has embraced it. So have Apple and Facebook.
In fact, they're part of a growing trend among businesses -- at least those that recognize the link between healthy bottom lines and healthy employees -- to adopt on-site wellness programs that incorporate chiropractic care.
"Employers are now seeing that employee health is important beyond health care costs," said Beth Bierbower, president of Humana's Employer Group Segment. "It has profound impacts on productivity, retention, workplace engagement and morale."
One of the earliest adoptees was the Wisconsin-based nutritional supplement company Standard Process. So impressed was management back in 1988 with the enthusiasm for an employee-initiated walking program that it ultimately took things a giant step further -- starting a wellness program for its own and other companies' workers called "Cultivate." Its four core pillars: nutrition, fitness, health education and -- yes, you guessed it -- chiropractic care.
To date, Standard Process reports approximately 90 percent employee participation, which has resulted in:
* Reduced health care claims.
* Higher rates of employees committing to health and wellness goals.
* Enhanced employee productivity, health, satisfaction and retention.
"As evidence emerges further documenting the positive outcomes associated with chiropractic care, I expect a larger number of employers will be impressed and take steps toward inclusion of chiropractic care," said Gerard Clum, DC, of the not-for-profit Foundation for Chiropractic Progress.
To locate a doctor of chiropractic in your area, visit www.F4CP.org/findadoctor.
(NewsUSA) - Finding the right doctor can mean living a healthier life, or it can be the difference between life and death.
Yet until now, consumers traditionally haven't accessed information that would enable them to find the right doctor for their individual needs. Americans have typically found their physician by word of mouth -- either from friends, family members, their doctor or their insurance list. And the problem is that these references are not subjective and only give a snapshot of a particular doctor -- one who may or may not be the best fit for your needs.
"The Internet has dramatically changed how people get important information and make connections. Just look at the popularity of sites like Zillow and TripAdvisor.com. But unlike shopping for a house or vacation, detailed information about physicians and hospitals hasn't been easy to use for decision-making," says Roger Holstein, CEO, Healthgrades.
But that's about to change. For the first time, consumers can search for doctors based on information that physicians themselves agree are most important: the doctor's experience, the clinical outcomes of the hospital where they practice and the satisfaction of their patients. The new search experience is available free at Healthgrades.com.
The in-depth search capability addresses an important gap -- 90 percent of consumers have said they could make a better choice when selecting a physician if they knew more about the physicians in their insurance plans, according to a Harris Interactive study conducted for Healthgrades.
"Knowing if a doctor diagnoses a particular condition or performs a procedure is critical to understanding their experience in treating patients like you -- which can influence the quality of care you receive," says Archelle Georgiou, MD, a healthcare advisor. "If you are searching for a doctor, Healthgrades should be your first stop."
To find the right doctor for you, visit www.healthgrades.com.
(NewsUSA) - Insects originating in foreign countries, commonly called invasive species, are a major concern in the U.S. because they often don't have natural predators, allowing their populations to grow quickly. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) reminds homeowners that several of these invasive species can be a threat or a nuisance to families or properties.
According to the NPMA, here are the five most common invasive species that homeowners encounter:
1. Brown marmorated stink bugs arrived in Pennsylvania in 1996 from Asia. The stink bug earned its name from its tendency to release an odor when disturbed or when crushed. While quite harmful to the agricultural industry, stink bugs do not pose a threat to people's health, but their tendency to invade homes in high numbers can be a nuisance.
2. Red imported fire ants (also known as RIFAs) are an invasive species from Brazil that are found throughout the South and in parts of California and other western states. RIFAs will attack humans who disturb or threaten their nests, inflicting painful bites and stings. Those allergic to insect stings will react more severely.
3. Formosan termites were brought into the U.S. from China in military cargo shipments after World War II. This termite species is one of the most destructive, forming huge underground colonies, and is more aggressive in nature, consuming more wood, flooring and wallpaper at much faster rates than other species. Formosan termites are difficult to control once they infest an area and can cause severe structural damage to a home in as little as six months.
4. Rasberry crazy ants are spreading rapidly throughout the Southwest. First found in Texas in 2002, its common name comes from the workers' habit of running in an erratic, jerky manner when searching for food. The ants can bite humans and feed on plants, other insects and even small animals.
5. Conehead termites, an invasive species native to the Caribbean, were first introduced to the U.S. in 2001 and are currently found in Florida. Unlike most termites, the conehead termite does not rely on underground tunneling to travel. Instead, they forage on the ground like ants, allowing them to spread rapidly. As an extremely aggressive species, they are known to cause widespread property damage in a short amount of time.
For more information, visit www.pestworld.org.
(NewsUSA) - What do shoes have to do with choosing the perfect shingles for your roof?
If you have to ask, then you haven't been paying attention to the seismic shift going on when it comes to marketing to women. For a while now, we've been told that females make more than 80 percent of purchasing decisions. But it's only relatively recently that companies across the spectrum have begun embracing -- no, bear hugging -- women consumers in ways that show they actually "get" the societal changes behind that stat.
Cadillac just released its first-ever commercial depicting a CEOish-looking woman behind the wheel of one of its luxury vehicles, for example, while American Express is out with a new no-fee rewards card targeted to "busy moms." Heck, even the NFL now has a line of sleek, fitted team jerseys that the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn "Beast Mode" Lynch couldn't even get over his neck.
"Women in the fall are thinking about football as much as the guys are," one executive told Adweek magazine.
Which brings us back to those shoes -- and what may actually go down as one of the most eye-opening nods to women's clout.
Females, according to She-Conomy, now make "the majority of home renovation decisions." (Relax, guys. They're still even less likely than you to want to undertake do-it-yourself projects.)
And so GAF, North America's largest roofing manufacturer -- yes, roofs -- now features a "Style Guide" on its website (www.gaf.com) that couldn't be more female-friendly if Eve had designed it herself while Adam was off dozing.
"Women are extremely important decision-makers, and therefore we're focusing on providing them solutions that not only perform but also provide the sophistication and style to match their personal taste," says Emily Videtto, vice president of shingles and new product development at GAF, which has won the Women's Choice Award for America's Best Roofing Brand for the past three years based on input from general contractors and female customers.
HGTV's design expert Carter Oosterhouse takes a mostly straightforward approach to walking users through the process of picking the right shingles for the desired effect. But GAF apparently realizes that women share a secret (or not so secret) vice that's foreign to most men: a love of shoes.
And so users get to have some fun by matching their fave shoe style to the corresponding shingle type. High heels your thing? "Explore Monaco Shingles," they're told. More the sneakers type? "Explore Timberline Lifetime Shingles."
Now that's getting it.