Tips to Avoid Identity Theft and Scams

Tips to Avoid Identity Theft and Scams

It seems every week we hear about another data breach or scam impacting consumers. From huge data breaches (Home Depot, TurboTax) to phone or email scams targeting seniors or specific groups, everyone needs to be aware of potential issues. While it’s not possible to avoid all the risks associated with identity theft and scams, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself. You are entitled to request a free copy of your credit report annually. Do this and review the report carefully to ensure it is accurate. If you are impacted by a large-scale data breach, sign up for the free credit monitoring services offered by the company. These services are generally offered for one year after the data breach. Do not give your Social Security number, credit card information, or other personal data over the phone if someone has called you and their identity is not confirmed. If you are not sure who is really calling, look up the main number for the business yourself and ask to be connected to the appropriate party. The IRS will never call you on the phone asking for personal information or for you to make a payment over the phone. If you receive such a call, hang up. Shred all personal documents using a cross-shredder before you discard them. Many communities have shred events sponsored by the police department where you can watch the documents while they are destroyed. If someone emails, calls or shows up at your door selling products or services, be skeptical of the offer. Don’t agree to anything before checking the company out through the...
North Carolina Says eNOugh | Domestic Violence Awareness

North Carolina Says eNOugh | Domestic Violence Awareness

Domestic violence is a worldwide problem that crosses racial, age and socio-economic barriers. North Carolina began their “eNOugh” campaign in 2012 to bring awareness to the problem of domestic violence. Statistics from eNOugh’s website report 1 in 4 women experience violence at the hands of an intimate partner. It’s not just women who experience abuse by an intimate partner; an estimated 15% of cases involve men. The impact goes further than the individuals involved. Nationally, estimates show employers lose $5 billion a year due to intimate partner violence; and domestic violence is the number one cause of homelessness for women and children. The NC Department of Justice reported 108 murders in 2013 classified as domestic violence, with Guilford and Mecklenburg Counties leading the way. Entire families and communities are impacted by this violence. Signs of Abuse Physical abuse may not happen at the beginning of a relationship, but there are often signs that an individual may have a “battering personality.” These can include jealousy, controlling behavior, placing blame on others, pushing you to move too quickly in a relationship, breaking objects, or abusing animals and children (lacking empathy). Verbal abuse is another sign, including verbal put-downs or embarrassing you in public. Abusers want to control your life, and may interfere with relationships between you and your family or friends, refuse to allow you to work or go out by yourself, threaten you or your loved ones, or even threaten to commit suicide. A great resource with additional information is The National Domestic Violence Hotline™ (www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-SAFE). Teens & Children When children are raised in an environment where domestic...
Help for Caregivers

Help for Caregivers

Caring for a loved one with a life-altering illness or injury can be stressful. Here are some resources available to caregivers and family members that may help in your journey. The Alzheimer’s Association has a section of their website focused on caregivers and a tool to create a customized Caregiver Action Plan (there are numerous national associations dedicated to different diseases; most offer similar helpful resources). Most associations have local chapters that may offer more specific benefits, including education and support programs. The Alzheimer’s Association of Western North Carolina provides support in the Triad area.’ The North Carolina Division of Aging and Adult Services has 17 local offices across the state that offer counseling, training, respite services, and limited supplemental care. The Piedmont Triad Regional Council serves our area. AARP has a number of articles and videos that address topics like how to handle an angry loved one when they lash out, ensuring safety when driving, etc. They also offer very important tips on taking care of yourself during this stressful time. Your loved one may be eligible for Social Security disability insurance if he or she became disabled before normal retirement age. Check into this early as it can take 3-5 months to hear back on an initial application. Supplement Security Income (SSI) may also be available to individuals who have very limited incomes. Review insurance options and check to see if your loved one could be eligible for Medicaid services. You may wish to speak with an elder law or estate planning attorney about asset protection planning. Many communities offer reduced price medical and dental clinics you...
Are Online Legal Forms a Good Idea?

Are Online Legal Forms a Good Idea?

Over the past several years, we at Brinkley Walser have seen an increase in popularity of the online “do it yourself” legal document sites, and are concerned that many individuals in need of legal advice do not understand what they are getting with these online legal forms. While this type of legal document service may be fine for a very simple task where you do understand exactly what you need, there are many cases where the “buyer” ends up unprotected or not getting exactly what he or she needs. To use an example, if you go online to complete a Last Will and Testament, you may discover after the fact that you really needed to structure a guardianship for minor children, or you might learn that setting up a Trust would protect your assets after your death. Hiring an attorney allows you to discuss the details of your life and obtain legal advice (or “counsel”) that is specific to your situation. At Brinkley Walser, we do not consider our primary function to be providing legal documents. Instead, our focus is on listening to our clients and developing a strategy and plan to meet their legal needs. We are, in fact, legal counselors for our clients. Document preparation is what happens after the counseling and strategy sessions take place. In addition, our fees include the preparation of necessary legal documents, so you are not paying for document preparation on top of attorney fees. This video with Brinkley Walser managing member David Inabinett explains how online legal document services differ from hiring an attorney. We believe it is worth your time...
Facebook and Free Speech

Facebook and Free Speech

By David E. Inabinett Social media has brought about all types of challenges in terms of matching up legal theories and protections with the advancements in technology which the law is often slow to keep up with. An issue recently determined by the 4th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Virginia speaks to online speech in the form of “liking” someone or something on Facebook and how it intersects with First Amendment protected speech. In Bland v. Roberts, the question arose as to whether the act of clicking one’s mouse to “like” a politician’s campaign page qualifies as “speech” protected by the First Amendment. In Bland, a sheriff’s deputy “liked” the Facebook campaign page belonging to an opposing candidate running against the deputy’s boss. The deputy was fired and sued his former employer, arguing the termination was in retaliation for exercising his free speech rights. While courts had previously held that online communications could qualify as protected speech, the issue of whether the act of “liking” someone/something on Facebook was one of first impression. The 4th Circuit analyzed that the nature of a “like” on Facebook was essentially a form of communication. The court further explained that this act was similar to communicating the user’s support, the internet equivalent of posting a political sign in one’s front yard, which our Supreme Court has held to be political speech. Before rendering employment decisions based on employee’s online actions or activities, it is advisable to seek the advice of an attorney. There are certainly some online behaviors which, depending upon the circumstances, can justify disciplinary action up to termination. However, those...