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A clown’s pratfalls are funny. Our own are not.

As time flies by, they become more costly.

But there is always someone ready to put a banana peel in our path.

We must protect ourselves.

Protect yourself from phone and internet fraud

The internet and the phone are major avenues of fraud.

Anti-malware programs, a sticker over the camera built into your computer and a healthy sense of skepticism help. The FBI has an internet complaint center at www.ic3.gov.

You can place yourself on the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list at www.donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222. If someone violates this, call 1-888-225-5322.

Free annual credit reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com. There are three credit reporting agencies. By requesting one from a different agency each time, you can check whose been eating your porridge – or lunch – every four months. If need be, you can put a credit freeze on and make corrections.

If you have other problems, call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-621-0508.

Fraud in Nursing Homes

Being in a nursing home may bring other problems. Your nursing home’s ombudsman may be able to help. In a crisis call the Texas Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 1-800-231-4024.

You can also enter a complaint against a nursing home, assisted living facility or other licensed long-term care facility by calling a consumer information hotline at 1-800-458-9858 or clicking on “Complaint Intake and Consumer Rights” at www.dads.state.tx.us.

For home health care as well, check on Consumer Rights and Services at 1-800-458-9858.

Don’t clown around.

Estate Planning attorney, Terry Garrett, is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations. She graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean’s List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Mellon Fellowship.

She assists families of people with special needs, people planning for the retirement years and people administering estates.

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