Gunning Daily News

Simple Steps for Seniors—and All Internet Users—to Protect Themselves

October 13, 2011 5:36 pm

Older Americans, who grew up in the era of rotary-dial phones and black and white TV programming, may still be in the minority among Internet users. But they are a rapidly growing presence on the Web and are making their mark on social networking websites. As a result they are potential targets of cybercriminals—and need to learn how to best protect themselves online.

Like Internet users of all ages and levels of Web savvy, seniors can benefit from the national cyber security awareness campaign being conducted during October. The public-private initiative—Stop! Think! Connect! —spearheaded by the National Cyber Security Alliance, the Department of Homeland Security and companies like Verizon, is designed to get out the message that online safety is everyone's responsibility.

More and more, older Americans are using social networking to connect with far-flung family and friends, sharing photos, home videos and personal messages.

A Pew Research Center study report, for example, found that the number of Americans over the age of 74 using social networking sites quadrupled in less than two years—a much faster rate than reported for any other age group.

"The Internet has become a fast and easy way for people of all ages to access information and entertainment," says Verizon network security expert Marcus Sachs. "Unfortunately, it's also become an effective tool for crooks looking for easy access to personal information, such as social security numbers or bank account numbers and passwords.

"From kids to seniors, protecting yourself and your data online may be easier than most people realize. We want to make sure senior citizens are informed of some simple steps to protect themselves," Sachs says.

Some steps, which all Internet users should take, are:
o Make sure you have anti-virus and anti-spyware software installed on your computer, and make sure it is updated frequently.
o Make sure your computer's firewall is turned on. It is an effective way of blocking unauthorized access to your computer and sensitive information in your computer files.
o If you are using a wireless router for your home network, make sure it has adequate security.
o Don't get hooked by phishing schemes. Beware of links in emails to sites you don't recognize; don't ever provide personal information as a result of an email or pop-up; and remember that reputable businesses never ask for personal information via email or pop-ups.
o If online offers seem too good to be true, they probably are. Downloading software, music or videos offered as "free" may come at a high price—they might include malware or spyware that can infect your computer and steal personal information. Download files only from sites you know and trust.
o Beware of people you meet for the first time on social networking sites. Don't reveal personal information about yourself or your friends and family in a way that may compromise their safety or identity. Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings on the social networking sites you use and chose the appropriate options for you.
o Passwords, passwords, passwords. As recommended by the National Cyber Security Alliance, make your passwords "long and strong" by combining capital and lowercase letters with numbers and symbols. Separate passwords for separate accounts will also make things more difficult for cybercriminals.

For more information, visit www.verizon.com.

TOP 5 RC - Bringing Home a Puppy; Tips for a Successful Introduction to the Family

October 13, 2011 5:36 pm

There's no doubt a new puppy brings joy to millions of families each year. However, while bringing home a new dog is exciting, it can also be quite an adjustment period for both the puppy and his new owners. 

According to veterinarian Dr. Brent Mayabb, manager of education and development at Royal Canin USA, pet parents can help ease the transition with some simple steps to ensure healthy growth and development for our four-legged family members. Here are some tips to help make your new puppy's transition easier for both pup and the family: 

Get social. Socializing your new puppy early is important to help them learn proper behavior when meeting a new person or animal. Try to introduce your dog to 10 to 20 new people and pets (of varying ages and in different locations) during your first week together. This will help them acclimate to different sizes and temperaments of dogs and cats, as well as a variety of humans. If your dog shows signs of aggression, take them out of the situation and try again with a smaller group or in a different setting.
Exercise before bedtime. As your puppy gets used to being away from its mother and pack, you may hear crying and whining at night. Try to be patient; this behavior is natural and shouldn't last longer than a few weeks. Additionally, try keeping your puppy busy with quick training sessions or playing with toys during the early evening hours. A worn out puppy is a quiet puppy.
Stick to a routine. Take your puppy out often and right before you put them in their pen or kennel before bed. Some veterinarians estimate that for every month your puppy is in your home that is one hour they can 'hold it.' Frequency in routine is very important for house training and rewarding victories during training can be key.
Visit the vet. Your pet's first visit to the vet is very important. The vet will help in scheduling vaccinations and explain the significance of preventative care for fleas, ticks, heartworm, and rabies among other diseases. Proper nutrition is also a means to preventing illness, so be sure to purchase high quality food. Remember to bring a list of questions with you to the appointment—from the beginning, your vet will be an important part of your pet's health. 

For more information, visit www.royalcanin.us.

Word of the Day

October 13, 2011 5:36 pm

Market price. Actual selling price of a property.

Question of the Day

October 13, 2011 5:36 pm

Q: If faced with foreclosure, what are my options?

A: Talk with your lender immediately. The lender may be able to arrange a repayment plan or the temporary reduction or suspension of your payment, particularly if your income has dropped substantially or expenses have shot up beyond your control. You also may be able to refinance the debt or extend the term of your mortgage loan. In almost every case, you will likely be able to work out some kind of deal that will avert foreclosure.

If you have mortgage insurance, the insurer may also be interested in helping you. The company can temporarily pay the mortgage until you get back on your feet and are able to repay their “loan.”

If your money problems are long term, the lender may suggest that you sell the property, which will allow you to avoid foreclosure and protect your credit record.

As a last resort, you could consider a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure. This is where you voluntarily “give back” your property to the lender. While this will not save your house, it is not as damaging to your credit rating as a foreclosure. Exhaust all other viable options before making a decision.

Enhance Your Well-Being: Nurse Your Sick Home Back to Health

October 13, 2011 5:06 pm

A new home may have freshly painted shutters, a picket fence around it, and rainbow-colored flower patches leading to the candy-red door. But if the air quality isn’t good inside, those exterior niceties become insignificant—and—quite simply, you could get sick. “Sick building syndrome” (a term typically reserved for office buildings, but often interchangeably used with the term “sick house syndrome” when referring to private homes) is a combination of physical ailments—symptoms often include headaches, loss of concentration, general malaise and breathing problems. The cause: poor indoor air quality.

The less-than-clean air that contributes to sick house syndrome comes courtesy of a huge list of pollutants, which can be separated into three main groups: particles (lime and silica dust, lead paint chips, pet dander, carbon from burning fuels and candles, and mold and dust mites); fibers (asbestos, fiberglass, animal hair and carpet/textile fibers); and gases (such as paint and other caustic product solvents, and carbon monoxide). 

These substances build up fast. They can either be inherent in the home, or tracked in on shoes and clothes (or via the family dog)—and they can adversely affect a person’s or family’s health. But don’t panic. Instead, take measures to reduce your exposure to the chemicals that cause sick house syndrome. Remember, this isn’t an exact science. Very few homes have absolutely no pollutants. The key is to reduce the number of pollutants as much as possible.

The following 11 steps will help you nurse your home back to health:

1. Use vacuums with HEPA filters. Your sea foam-green Electrolux from 1968 might be a swoopy retro design statement, but it’s not healthy to use anymore.
2. Use high-efficiency furnaces and hot-water heaters. Your local heating company can give you information on the newest, most efficient models.
3. Seal all gaps around your windows and doors. Some pollutants are tracked in on foot, but others float in through minuscule cracks.
4. Have your basement waterproofed to prevent mold from proliferating.
5. If you’ve been sleeping on your pillows for more than six months, there are probably enough dust mites on them to do the final dance number from a big Broadway musical. Change your pillows at least twice a year. And wash all bedding at least once a week—in hot water—to reduce the instance of allergens. 6. Avoid flannel pajamas as they contain synthetic fabrics that can house volatile compounds. While we’re on the subject of clothing—give all washable clothes you buy one wash, with Borax, before wearing.
7. When you’re buying your kids a toy, look for any labeling that indicates that Latex, neoprene or vinyl (PVC) is in it. If any of these substances are used, leave the item in the store. It’s not good for you—or your child.
8. When you’re done painting a room in your home, don’t store the paint for later use. Instead, write down the color name and number—most major paint companies have readily available touch-up containers in small sizes. (Similarly, don’t keep solvents, pesticides and fertilizers hanging around either).
9. Use doormats. Not only do they make people feel welcome—they whisk the germs off their feet before they have the chance to enter your home.
10. Whenever you can replace a porous surface with a smooth one, do so. A sleek leather rug collects fewer allergens than a loopy shag rug. Or, if you’re going low-budget—consider skipping the rug altogether.
11. Taking shorter showers is good for the environment, but it still exposes you to chlorine. Use a carbon filter on your showerhead to help reduce your exposure to chlorine and other harmful chemicals.

Charles Furlough is vice president, Pillar To Post Home Inspections.

5 Guidelines for a Healthier Grocery Shop

October 13, 2011 5:06 pm

Every time you step into the grocery store, you are taking your health into your own hands. By purchasing wholesome, good-for-you food, and leaving the junk on the shelves, you can improve your health, the health of your family, and even your planet. 

Understanding that food affects your mood, your susceptibility to illness, your weight, energy levels and more will make you think twice about what you put into your mouth—and shopping cart. Food is the greatest medicine, and if you buy and consume healthy food proactively, you will reap benefits in the long run. So how do you make a healthier trip to the store? Consider the following guidelines.

1. Never shop when you’re hungry. When you’re hungry, your willpower will weaken. You will be rushing, which will lead to quick decision making and impulse buys, and your stomach will take power over your brain, making it more likely you will reach for a bag of chips than a bag of spinach.

2. Make a list. Going to the store without a list is a bad idea for your physical and financial health. Planning out what you will prepare for the week, and what ingredients you need, will allow you to buy only the healthful, necessary ingredients. Plus, seeing it down on paper will help steel your reserve to stick to as healthy eating plan.

3. Avoid the middle isles. The center of the store is full of processed, artificial foods full of sugar, salt and empty calories. Stick to the outer edges of the store which contain filling proteins, fruits and vegetables. If you must venture into the center, read labels. If you can’t pronounce it or don’t know where it comes from, don’t eat it.

4. Choose organic when possible. In doing so, you will cut down on the chemicals your body comes in contact with and support the organic food movement.

5. Buy in bulk. When it comes to healthy staples and ingredients like nuts, whole grains and spices, buy in bulk whenever possible. Bulk items are usually less expensive and cut down on packaging, which will shrink your environmental footprint. 

Source: www.swparents.com

Word of the Day

October 13, 2011 5:06 pm

Loan-to-value ratio. Relationship of a mortgage loan to the appraised value of a piece of property. Usually expressed to the buyer in terms of how much the lender will lend, i.e.—75 percent financing.

Question of the Day

October 13, 2011 5:06 pm

Q: Should I hire a professional or do the job myself?
A: It depends on the complexity of the project and your ability to do the job well yourself. Really consider whether you have the time, skills, tools, help, and legal knowledge of local regulations to get the job done. While you could save up to an estimated 20% of the project cost doing the work yourself – there are plenty of how-to books and workshops offered by home improvement stores to guide you – be aware that you could also end up spending more money and time if you botch the job or unforeseen problems arise. Think, too, about resale value. If the quality of your work is less than professional, your home’s value could drop. So, unless you’re highly skilled or experienced, shy away from major home improvements that involve structural changes. Stick to building shelves, painting, and other minor improvements instead.

Save Big When Dining Out

October 13, 2011 5:06 pm

Everyone loves a great deal and loves to eat, so what could be better than finding bargain meals? The November 2011 issue of ShopSmart magazine, from the publisher of Consumer Reports, has uncovered the best websites to find restaurant deals so that you can enjoy a meal out without breaking your budget.

"We know how expensive eating out can get, so we scoured the Web for sites that make it easy to save," says Lisa Lee Freeman, editor-in-chief of ShopSmart.

"These websites even have mobile apps and offer social connectivity with Facebook and Twitter, making it even easier to keep up to date with deals and save big."

BiteHunter.com
Best for
: today's specials
This site lists restaurants' specials as well as daily deals from other sites, such as Citysearch and Groupon. It's easy to search by cuisine, deal, or restaurant in a particular city. Daily deals that must be purchased through other sites are accessible by a prominent link.

Heads up: Sometimes it has incorrect instructions, such as "Just mention Citysearch, no purchase required," when the deal actually requires you to go to Citysearch and print a coupon.

EatDrinkDeals.com
Best for:
chain restaurant deals
From A&W to Zaxby's, EatDrinkDeals has national and regional chains covered. A newsletter-type format details coupons and specials with links. Tabs lead you to specials for happy hour, kids, lunch, or dinner for two.

Handy: a list of areas that celebrate Restaurant week.

Heads up: Keeping up with so many chains is hard and can sometimes lead to bad links.

Restaurant.com
Best for:
discount certificates
Just plug your ZIP code into Restaurant.com's search engine and select the deal you want. Typical offer: a $25 certificate for $10, with a minimum purchase required. Monthly "Behind the menu" will help you focus your cuisine choice.

Heads up: Particular deals labeled "Best value" might not be. For example, a $100 certificate for $40 comes with a $200 minimum purchase. That's not as good as paying $10 for a $25 certificate with a $35 minimum purchase.

Savored.com
Best for
: finer-dining discounts
Had enough hamburgers? Savored can steer you to steak or sashimi. Pay a $10 fee to Savored, use the site to book a reservation, and get 30 percent off your bill automatically. Plus you get access to Zagat reviews and ratings to help you decide on a destination.

Heads up: Savored currently is in just 10 cities and availability can be limited, so check deals before you sign up.

For more information, visit www.ShopSmartmag.org.


What Is Invasion of Privacy?

October 13, 2011 5:06 pm

Legally speaking, what is invasion of privacy? And what are your options if your privacy has been invaded?

Privacy is a hot topic these days, but how do things play out in the legal arena? Your computer may have been hacked and your personal information sold. But what can you do about it?

Whether or not criminal statutes cover the act, you may be entitled to file a suit alleging one of the following privacy torts.

Intrusion of Solitude
This is the most traditional of the privacy torts. It deals primarily with peeping toms, snooping neighbors, wiretapping and hacking.

You can file a civil action if someone has intentionally intruded into your private space or affairs. They can do so physically, or via electronic or other means. And you must have a reasonable expectation of privacy in that information or space.

Public Disclosure of Private Facts
It is illegal to reveal truthful, yet private, facts to third parties. The facts must not be of public concern, and would offend a reasonable person if made public. The information must also legitimately be private and known by few, if any, other people.

This privacy tort is primarily aimed at gossipers and news media. Think about situations where a friend has blabbed about a secret medical condition.

False Light
Unlike defamation, false light focuses on the public disclosure of true but misleading facts. It is illegal to publicly and recklessly make statements that place another in a false light. The statements must be highly offensive or embarrassing to a reasonable person.

You now have some tools to help you decide what isn't and what is invasion of privacy. If you are in a situation that feels like it may fall into one of the above categories, consider contacting an attorney for more information.

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.