Friday, December 07, 2018

Marriott's huge data breach

It’s happened again – a massive data breach of personal information we all want to keep confidential but evidently can’t.

Marriott International has disclosed that around 500 million customer records worldwide have been hacked over a four-year period. That occurred in their subsidiary Starwood hotel chains.

These hackers found more than names, addresses, phone numbers, emails, and dates of birth. They found passport numbers and loyalty program data too. Encrypted credit card numbers were also stolen.

Learning from Target’s and Expedia’s loss of huge amounts of data in this way, Marriott is contacting by email those who have been affected if the email is on file.

They have also established a call center and website at

Further, those affected by the breach will have a year’s fraud monitoring service paid for by Marriott. The sign-up for the service is at the website shown above.

Marriott said it will not ask customers to provide their password by phone or email and told guests to stay vigilant against phishing attempts in the wake of the data breach.

The hackers didn’t do all this work for nothing, so checking your credit card statements closely is another way to do your part.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Nov 20 is Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender people experience higher rates of violence and threats of violence than cisgender people worldwide. On November 20th every year we remember the transgender victims of murder. In 2018 at least 22 transgender people have been killed by violence in America.

A new report from the Human Rights Campaign explores many of the factors that can contribute to or facilitate such fatal violence. The 73 page report, "A National Epidemic: Fatal Anti-Transgender Violence in America in 2018" is available for free download at

At WVSLA we honor the courage of older transgender West Virginians every day, and remember those we have lost to violence especially on November 20.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Problems voting? Call 681-443-7083 or 681-443-7065

West Virginians having trouble voting on election day can call a hotline offered by WV ACLU, Mountain State Justice, and WVU College of Law. The hotline will be open on election day 11/6/18 from 6:30a to 7:30p. If you can't get through you can leave a voicemail with your number and get a return call.

Voters who run into anything unusual in the voting process or who encounter a problem related to the voter ID requirements are encouraged to call, and to vote a provisional ballot and request a receipt.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

100,000 names purged from WV voter registration rolls, check your registration online

WV Secretary of State Mac Warner announced today that his office in cooperation with county clerks around the state have purged over 100,000 names from voter registration rolls. He said the purpose was to reduce fraud by removing deceased, duplicate, convicted felon, and "outdated" voter registrations.

There are about 1.2 million registered voters in the state as of this week. The percentages of registrations purged varies substantially from county to county, with Wirt at less than 3% but Calhoun and Monroe counties having purged over 23% of their registrations.

You can check online to be sure your voter registration was not removed at the WV Secretary of State's webpage where you must input your name and date of birth. You can also register to vote or update/change your valid voter registration (change party, address, etc.) at where you'll have to answer several questions and enter more identifying information about yourself including Social Security number and ID or drivers license number. You can also verify, register, or update your voter registration in person at the County Clerk's office in your local county courthouse.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Time is running short on getting your Medicare ducks in a row if you stayed on Health Insurance Marketplace coverage after becoming eligible for Medicare.

September 30, 2018 is the deadline for making the switch to Medicare Part B and requesting relief from late enrollment penalties.

A good way to take care of everything is to make an appointment to meet with a staff person at the nearest Social Security office. Call 800-777-1213 very soon.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has more detailed information on the website at

Numerous documents are needed to make the switch, so don’t forget them at home.

This deadline is not applicable to those who had employer/union healthcare plans when they became eligible for Medicare.

For those West Virginians age 60 and over with legal issues of any type, we can help at West Virginia Senior Legal Aid. Call 800-229-5068 to speak with a staff attorney.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Public Input Forums: WV Aged and Disabled Medicaid Waiver Policy Manual

Purpose: The WV Bureau for Medical Services is holding eight statewide forums to gather input for the new Aged and Disabled Waiver policy manual
Who's Invited: All Aged and Disabled Waiver service providers, participants and family members.

Berkeley Senior Services
217 North High Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401
Date: July 19, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Senior Monongalians
5000 Greenbag Road, Suite 7
Morgantown, WV 26507
Date: July 20, 2018
Time: 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Cabela's - Powder Horn Grill
One Cabela Drive
Tridelphia, WV 26059
Date: August 7, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Hampton Inn-Mineral Wells
64 Elizabeth Pike
Mineral Wells, WV 26150
Date: August 8, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Summersville Arena & Conference Center
3 Armory Way
Summersville, WV 26651
Date: August 15, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Cabell County - Underwood Center
632 9th Avenue
Huntington, WV 25701
Date: August 21, 2018
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Raleigh County Commission on Aging
1614 S. Kanawha Street
Beckley, WV 25801
Date: September 12, 2018
Time: 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Saint John XXIII Pastoral Center
100 Hodges Road
Charleston, WV 25314
Date: September 25, 2018
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Reshipping, Gift Card and Sweepstake Frauds

Who wants to be scammed?

Absolutely no one, but it keeps on happening.

The proliferation of rip-offs are the work of dishonest people all over the world.

One work-at-home scam involves agreeing to have packages or money orders sent to your home or business address first and then re-shipped by you to another address. The scammers especially like those living in rural areas.

The crooks will order products using stolen credit cards, and the items will come to you. You will be collecting them for shipment, often out of the country and often at your own expense. The destinations can be Russia, Europe, Africa or anywhere.

You will receive instructions that will require you to pay the shipping in order to receive your fee. You will probably never get a penny. And yes, it’s all illegal and you could be arrested for mail fraud, smuggling and other crimes.

Some of the reshipping scams involve contact through dating websites (. hearts). or Internet career sites. Some even claim to be shipping items for a foreign charity. Don’t help them!

Payment to scam victims often involves counterfeit money orders in large amounts. The plan is for you to deposit your share in your checking account and send the excess amount to another person. Before you know it, you’ve lost the full amount of the counterfeit MO from your hard-earned savings

Learn more at

One evening, a call came to John’s home. He was being warned by Deputy Thomas that he had one hour to pay a $1000 fine for missing jury duty in the county recently.

He was to go to a local discount store, purchase a gift card, and call the “official” number back. He was then to give them the card’s account number to avoid being arrested.

John didn’t cooperate after concluding the caller didn’t have the basic information he should have if this were actually an official call, but he realized how easy it is for scammers to penetrate our daily lives.

One of the oldies somehow keeps on working: fake sweepstakes or lottery winnings, even though you don’t recall entering the contest or purchasing a ticket. Some of the worst ones in operation today are coming from Jamaica or Costa Rica.

The phony notification may come by phone, text, email or social media. You will be persuaded to send money for income taxes or a special handling fee. Those amounts are just the come-on, and you haven’t won anything other than the sad honor of being the next victim.

The most notorious sweepstakes scams have earned a lot of attention on the Internet. Search for the company name, and you will see that other victims have reported their bad experiences.

Keep your radar on for any and all frauds and scams. If you’ve been wondering whether you may have been caught in the net of a scam or have other legal concerns, call West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800–229–5068. This free service is for West Virginia residents, age 60 and over, and they must make the call on their own behalf.

Friday, June 15, 2018

June 15 is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

You can't undo abuse, so prevention is critical. We can all do more to prevent elder abuse in our communities and in our families. One place to learn more about elder abuse and what you can do for prevention is the National Council on Aging

Friday, June 01, 2018

2018 West Virginia Legislative Highlights for Seniors

Yes, the 2018 West Virginia legislature passed the Fiscal Year 2019 budget before adjourning. That felt good after earlier years in which that process so crucial to the state’s welfare was such a struggle.

All links below are to the bill language in a pdf document from the legislature's website.

House Bill 4279 Thanks to this new law, there are now more specific protections for incapacitated adults and nursing home and facility residents against financial exploitation by facility staff, family, caregivers, or others. The Department of Health and Human Resources Adult Protective Services’ staff is authorized to investigate exploitive or fraudulent financial situations for those persons.

It seems that we hear more and more about financial abuse of so many, whether through intentional scams or family schemes.

This law means that those, friend or foe, who are preying on incapacitated adults or those in nursing homes by scamming them out of their money and property will face another hurdle in getting away with it. Adult Protective Services is now charged with initiating investigations and working with other entities, including county prosecutors, to stop the exploitation.

The legal definition of financial exploitation is the unlawful expenditure or unlawful willful dissipation of the funds or other assets owned or paid to or for the benefit of an incapacitated adult or facility resident.

For those who are concerned about someone suffering from financial exploitation or similar abuse, contact the APS staff at the county level or call 800-352-6513.

House Bill 4150 A new law prohibits West Virginia telemarketers from misleading you about their company’s identity when calling and from collecting your identifying information with their electronic resources. That information can be used for further scams.

So if your caller ID screen shows Tiffany‘s NY as the caller (but it is actually from Big Time Rip-off, Inc.), the company has violated the law.

The new law does not appear to apply to out-of-state telemarketers but hopefully will have a deterrent effect on such deceptive practices anyway.

An upcoming government study authorized during the session will evaluate ways to improve palliative medical care practices. Also, an assessment of whether changes to the taxation of Social Security income would be appropriate in West Virginia was discussed but did not pass.

House Bill 4035 Palliative care is specialized medical treatment for those with a serious illness, focusing on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of what is often the most significant illness the person has faced. The overall goal of the care is to improve the quality of life for patients and families. A Palliative Care Advisory Council will be made up of healthcare professionals in this field, consumer advocates and other end-of-life professionals.

House Concurrent Resolution 115 Currently, a majority of states do not tax their residents’ Social Security benefits. Others tax them at a lower rate. Only West Virginia and four other states tax the benefits like the federal government does. Recognizing that those collecting Social Security may face many serious financial concerns, especially a lessened ability to earn extra income, a joint committee would discuss retirement security issues and evaluate the impact of any taxation change on future budgets.

Senate Bill 397 One other new law--it is illegal now to claim that a pet is a service animal unless it has been certified or claim to be a handicapped or disabled person if that is not true. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor.

If you have questions about how any of the new laws will impact you or have other legal concerns, feel free to contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid for assistance. To be eligible for this service, you must be a West Virginia resident at least 60 years old and must be the one to call 800-229-5068. We’re here to help!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

MoneySmart Week: Your Credit Score

What’s your score? 730. 640. Do you know?

Developed in 1989, a credit score has become a crucial component for many financial decisions by individuals and financial institutions.

Its true name is a FICO score, which was developed by Fair, Isaac and Company. In observance of Money Smart Week, April 21-28, it’s time to learn more about your use of credit and its implications.

When being considered for a loan or mortgage, new credit card, renting property, and even a job, your credit score is likely to be one determinant of the final decision made.

Those with higher scores can pay lower loan interest rates or get the apartment or job!

Knowing your credit score is downright important.

Utilizing many factors, especially

  • payment history,
  • ratio of credit used to credit available on credit card accounts,
  • number of open accounts and their longevity, and
  • bankruptcy,
each of three national credit bureaus calculates your credit score. It can be different at TransUnion, Equifax and Experian based on the version of the scoring algorithm used and the data collected by the credit bureau.

Reviewing all three of your credit reports is an important way of being money-wise. Checking the accuracy of all of the information and finding out who has been checking on you allows you to evaluate your situation when considering additional accounts or borrowing.

Under federal law, you may request a free credit report each year from each credit bureau at or 1-877-322-8228. You will not receive a free credit score with the report, but that can usually be purchased online for less than $10.

Other sites can provide your credit report but there will be a charge for it.

Some individuals stagger their credit report requests every four months so that they can get new information throughout the year.

If any errors are found in the report, you may file a challenge with the credit bureau in writing and it must be investigated within 30 days. More information on the process for filing a dispute is located at

Conversely, too many credit card accounts can harm your insurance score. Many insurance companies set your premiums on your use of credit. The basic philosophy is that the more accounts you have, there can be a higher likelihood of filing false insurance claims.

Be Money Smart – take your credit’s temperature periodically to avoid scorching moments down the road.

If you have questions on credit issues, you can contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid for assistance. To be eligible to talk to our staff attorney, you must be a West Virginia resident at least 60 years old and must be the one to call 800-229-5068. We’re here to help!

Monday, April 16, 2018

TOMORROW 4/17 is last day to register to vote for primary, and new WV voter ID law in place this year

April 17, 2018 is the last day you can register to vote in the May 9, 2018 primary in West Virginia.

In 2017 the WV Secretary of State's office purged over 47,000 names from the voter rolls who were presumably ineligible (duplicates, deceased, etc.). You can check the status of your own voter registration to be sure you weren't among those 47,000 by going to and entering your name and SSN.

This year you will have to present ID at the polls to vote, according to a state law that went into January 1. WV Code §3-1-31 Don't worry, it does not have to be a picture ID. These requirements don't apply if you vote absentee. Here's a list of the acceptable forms of ID you submit when you vote at the polling place:

  • Voter registration card
  • Medicare card or Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • WV hunting or fishing license
  • WV SNAP ID card
  • WV TANF program ID card
  • WV Medicaid ID card
  • Bank or debit card
  • Utility bill or bank statement issued within
  • six months of the date of the election
  • Health insurance card issued to the voter
  • WV driver’s license or other WV ID card
  • issued by the DMV
  • Driver’s license issued by another state
  • U.S. passport or passport card
  • Military ID card issued by the U.S.
  • U.S. or WV Government employee ID card
  • Student ID card
  • A concealed carry (pistol/revolver) permit

If you can't produce any acceptable ID you can still vote if you bring an adult who has known you at least 6 mo to complete an affidavit about your identity.

If you can't produce valid ID or a friend who knows you you can cast a provisional ballot.

It's National Healthcare Decisions Week

Cousin Eggbert could be the person making important medical decisions for you unless you plan otherwise.

Is that all right with you?

We know we should fill out the medical power of attorney to govern what happens when we can’t handle the choice of medical options for ourselves, but we don’t always get around to it.

Never fear, the state has a fail-safe plan in place.

If you haven’t completed a medical power of attorney before you need it, a health care surrogate can be appointed for you by your physician. That’s how Cousin Eggbert could enter the picture.

In observance of National Healthcare Decisions Week (April 16-22), take the steps to fill out your medical power of attorney. Don’t let procrastination change the path of your life. You have the right to control who makes those crucial medical decisions on your behalf.

West Virginia has a form for a Medical Power of Attorney and a form for a Living Will (to specify end-of-life choices) with questions and answers about both available at

You can consult with a social worker at a hospital or other medical facility to work out choices you are comfortable with. For this type of document, an attorney is not required.

If you have questions on this important decision or other important legal issues, you can contact West Virginia Senior Legal Aid for assistance. To be eligible for this free service, you must be a West Virginia resident at least 60 years old and must be the one to call 800-229-5068. We’re here to help!

Friday, March 23, 2018

New Medicare cards start getting delivered in April

Knowing that your new paper Medicare card will be coming to your mailbox in April or later also means it’s important to protect it once it arrives.

new medicare card image
Your free card will have a different account number unrelated your Social Security Number.  The unique, randomly assigned number is called a Medicare Beneficiary Identifier (MBI).

You will need to notify your medical providers of the change at your next appointments to update their records. The change in the Medicare account number does not affect Medicare benefits or other insurance accounts.

The account numbers are being changed to reduce identity fraud.

Remember, neither the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services nor the Social Security Administration will call or email you about your new card or account number or other benefits.

If you receive such a contact, hang up or delete the email.  It’s from a scammer who wants to steal your new account information and your identity. 

You can learn about the new card at

If you suspect you’ve been victimized, call West Virginia Senior Legal Aid at 800-229-5068 to speak with a staff attorney. If you are a West Virginia resident who is age 60 or older, you are eligible for this free service. You must call yourself, not have someone else do it, to discuss the situation.

And don’t forget to destroy your current Medicare card (cut it into multiple pieces) when you have the new one in hand.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Important changes regarding online access to WV healthcare directive forms

The WV Center for End-of-Life Care has been defunded and will cease operations before the end of March 2018. Their excellent website has been the best source for information and forms for advance healthcare directives in West Virginia including the Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will. The Center has been the driving force for policy in our state regarding surrogate healthcare decisionmaking and planning, and has made West Virginia a leader across the country in this area. We at WVSLA are sad about the Center's demise, the loss of these valuable resources including the great staff at the Center, and are concerned about the future development of policy and resources in the vital and changing area of end-of-life decisionmaking.

The future of the E-Registry is uncertain. The e-registry was a real innovation, one of the first in the nation, and had (perhaps still has?) the potential to dramatically enhance the likelihood that your advance healthcare choices get respected. It is an electronic database available free to patients and providers. You could voluntarily upload your completed directives to the database and only participating providers with HIPAA access to your medical records could access your directives. Even if you carefully made thoughtful choices, talked to your agents and family and informed them about your values and wishes, and properly executed the appropriate documents if those documents can't be found by the right providers in the critical moments your choices could go unfulfilled. A good e-registry used properly could make fill that gap. We hope the e-registry finds a new home and continues to improve.

Meanwhile, here are a few takeaways about this news:

- you can still access the information and documents from the old WV End of Life Center at the WV Center for Health Ethics and Law,

- the law has not changed, the West Virginia Health Care Decisions Act, WV Code §16-30-1, et seq. has not been affected by the Center's closure,

- your Medical Power of Attorney, Living Will, POST, or other documents that were previously and properly executed are still valid,

- now is a good time to review your documents and make sure they reflect your current wishes and that your chosen representative(s) are still able and willing to act. It is important to periodically review your documents to account for changes in your wishes and circumstances,

- you should not rely on the e-registry at this point as the only way for providers to access your directives. A photocopy of your properly-executed document is as valid as the signed original, and your providers need to have a copy of your document in order to be able to implement what it contains. Now is the time to verify that your treating providers have your current documents on file,

- the future of policy development in end-of-life decisionmaking in our state is uncertain, and now is the time for West Virginians who care about these issues to let lawmakers know what is important.

If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginian with questions about healthcare decisionmaking and planning you can talk to an attorney for free at WV Senior Legal Aid by calling us at 1-800-229-5068.

Friday, February 23, 2018

WVSLA's celebrates Black History Month

Teachers have always played an important role in our nation.

Carrie Williams, a graduate of Storer College and an African American teacher in Tucker County during the 1890s, knew her students deserved the same eight months of learning each school year that white students received.

But the Tucker County School Board didn’t see it the same way. They allocated a budget of only five months for the black schools to save money.

Miss Williams and J. R. Clifford, the first African American attorney licensed to practice in West Virginia, felt that action was discriminatory.

Based on Mr. Clifford’s advice and the cooperation of the African American community, she continued to teach for the additional three months. She then sued the school board for the wages she was not paid but also for the underlying opportunity for the additional three months of instruction.

In 1892, the case was heard by an all-male jury in Parsons, and Miss Williams’ claim for back pay prevailed.

In November, 1896, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals heard the school board’s appeal and ruled that the decision to shorten the school year of the colored schools was illegal.

As noted in the court’s opinion:  “Such discrimination, being made merely on account of color, cannot be recognized or tolerated, as it is contrary to public policy and the law of the land.”

The landmark case righted a specific wrong, but West Virginia’s schools remained segregated, as was true in many other states, until the Brown vs. Board of Education case was decided by the United States Supreme Court in 1954.

To celebrate Black History Month, we gratefully salute a brave teacher who knew unfairness when she and her students experienced it once again.

West Virginia Senior Legal Aid is committed to serving with excellence our state's seniors of color.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines Day buzzkill: guard your wallet as well as your heart

Don't become a victim of a romance scam, learn to spot the signs and how to protect your money and assets from the saddest of scams. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has the scoop here

Friday, February 02, 2018

Guard your income tax refund now

Pencil with tax form on US dollarbills background The early bird may get your income tax refund.

There are identity thieves capable of locating your name and Social Security Number. From there, they can file a fake return using made-up amounts and happily collect your refund.

It’s that simple. And that’s one reason for filing your returns as early as possible – to beat the crooks to the punch. The IRS only accepts one tax return per SSN.

Following the 2017 Equifax data breach, 143 million names and SSNs are “out there.”

You may not learn a fake return has been filed until you try to e-file your return and it’s rejected as previously filed or an IRS letter arrives with the same message. There is information on other ways you may find out this bad news at best methods for following up are also listed there.

For those who are not required to file a federal return, doing it anyway protects your address and other data from being changed in the IRS computer system.

Tax preparation assistance is available in every West Virginia county through VITA, AARP and senior center programs. Make your appointment early!

Other ways identity thieves may benefit from your SSN are applying for credit cards they won’t pay off or through getting a job using your SSN but ignoring the W-2 when they receive it. They won’t pay the taxes and the IRS will think you’re the crook.

Being proactive by learning more about identity theft, including tax-related identity theft, at is a crucial way to protect your future.

Friday, January 26, 2018

RAISE Family Caregivers Act signed into federal law

The Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act was signed by President Trump on 1/24/18. The Act, a bipartisan effort supported by AARP, requires the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create an advisory council charged with making recommendations toward development of a national strategy for ways government, communities, healthcare providers, and employers to support family caregivers.

The Goals of this National Family Caregiving Strategy include:

  • Promoting greater adoption of person-centered care and family-centered care in health settings and long-term care settings
  • Training for family caregivers
  • Respite options for family caregivers
  • Ways to increase financial security for family caregivers
  • Workplace policies to help family caregivers keep working
  • Collecting and sharing of information about innovative family caregiving models
  • Assessing federal programs around family caregiving
  • Addressing disparities and meeting the needs of the diverse caregiving population

For more information about the passage of the legislation and for the text of the Act see

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Consumer protection issues in opioid recovery

West Virginians desperate for cure from opioid dependence may become victimized by consumer scams. Don't let your zeal to get yourself or your loved ones free from addiction keep you from being skeptical about "miracle" cures.

The Federal Trade Commission has information to help you separate fact from fiction

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Medicare 2018 Premiums, Deductibles, Copays

The good news is Medicare is still here, the bad news isn't too bad, your out of pocket costs go up a little for 2018.

Medicare A & B Premiums, Deductibles, Copays 2018

Part A (hospital) Beneficiary pays:
Hospital Deductible $1,340/benefit period
Hospital Copay $335/day for days 61-90
$670/day for days 91-150
Skilled Nursing Facil Copay $167.50/day for days 21-100
Part A Premium $455/month for those with fewer than 30 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
$232/month for those with 30-39 quarters of Medicare-covered employment
Part B (doctor, outpatient services, etc.) Beneficiary pays:
Annual Deductible $186
Part B Premium for those with incomes below $85,000 or $170,000 married couple $134/month – for those beneficiaries enrolled in Medicare prior to 2016, whose premium is taken out of their monthly Social Security benefit
Most covered Part B services 20%