Don't Get Scammed This Holiday Season

She knew immediately something was off...

One of my researchers recently received a text that was supposedly from the United States Postal Service claiming there was a package waiting for her with an unpaid shipping fee. The text included a link to schedule delivery and pay the fee.

She knows that any random text or e-mail asking for personal information and money is an immediate red flag. A quick call to the post office confirmed the text was a scam... one that has grown in popularity over the years.

The holiday season is a popular time for scammers. In an Experian survey of 1,000 consumers, 24% reported being the victim of fraud or identity theft during the holidays.

Here are three ways to keep the scammers at bay this season...

Stick to trusted sites. You'll see lots of companies promoting sites all across the Internet. Some are well-known names, but plenty are smaller companies vying for your business. Unfortunately, not all of these companies are legitimate, and you could get stuck paying for something you'll never receive. Before you hit that purchase button, do your research... Check for reviews online, look at the company's social media presence, and check for a Better Business Bureau rating.

Don't let your memory fool you. Some scammers will call you to say they're collecting on a pledge you made to charity. This time of year, with so many people asking for money, you might doubt your memory and think you did, in fact, make such a pledge. Fraudsters target older folks with this type of tactic, hoping they have poor memories. Don't fall for it. Keep a list of every donation you've made or promised to make. Having this sheet handy can let you know at a glance if they're telling the truth.

Use resell sites cautiously. Buying from third parties – like Amazon Marketplace (meaning third-party sellers who list their wares on Amazon's website), Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or eBay – can snag you great deals.

But if your purchase requires an in-person meeting, do it at a police station. Here in Maryland, police precincts offer "Safe Exchange Zones" where people can meet to complete online transactions. Officers won't get involved in your transaction, but meeting at a police station helps to deter any scammers who might just be trying to rob you. So before you meet up with a stranger, check with your local police precinct to see if they offer a safe zone.

Now, let's get into some of the things you've had on your minds this week. As always, keep sending your comments, questions, and topic suggestions to [email protected]. We read every e-mail.

Q: I just read the November 11 [issue] and saw the reader question about memory apps. Recently a study by North Carolina University used blueberries to treat cognitive decline and showed for the first time a reversal of cognitive decline. Have you seen this? I would appreciate your opinion on this. In the meantime, I am adding blueberries to my morning smoothies. Thanks. – L.H.

A: I'm well known for my love of blues, so I'm always excited for more reason to eat them.

The main reason blueberries are so good for you is that they're packed with antioxidants. Antioxidants called polyphenols protect our cells from deteriorating as we age. And just half a cup of ripe blueberries provides up to 400 milligrams of polyphenols.

Sixty percent of blueberry polyphenols are called anthocyanins. They're found in blueberry skins and are the reason blueberries are blue. There are more anthocyanins in blueberries than in any other fruit.

We've known for a long time that blueberries are great for your brain...

In 2018, a study published in the European Journal of Nutrition used 24 grams of freeze-dried blueberries – the equivalent of one cup of fresh blueberries – with a group of adults aged 60 to 75.

After three months, the participants who ate blueberries every day – rather than a placebo – had fewer word-repetition errors on the California Verbal Learning Test and were better at completing tasks when the rules for that task changed. Verbal learning and task-switching are two higher-order thinking activities.

The latest study – the one you found from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – had participants consume either blueberry or placebo powder daily for six months. Participants were 65 to 80 years old, and they were already showing some cognitive decline before the study. Over the six months, those in the blueberry group showed faster information processing. And those aged 75 to 80 had the greatest improvement. Researchers also found that folks in the blueberry group experienced less cognitive fatigue over a three-hour period.

As we age, our brains work a little slower and get tired easier. It's a natural part of aging, but it's exponentially worse for those suffering from dementia. Unfortunately, the results of this particular study didn't show an improvement in people who show early signs of disease.

But if you want another way to keep your brain young, get those blues in your diet.

Like you, L.H., I like to add blueberries to smoothies or add a cup of them to my yogurt or oatmeal at breakfast... I also like to have them for dessert with homemade whipped cream and some dark chocolate (70% cacao) pieces.

Q: I have 30 bonds that are maturing in January and would like to transfer them to my grandchildren. Do I have to cash them first or can they be transferred and acquire a new termination date? Any advice would be really appreciated.

I have enjoyed and benefited from reading your Health & Wealth Review every week. – G.C.

A: We'll work off the assumption that you meant you have 30-year bonds, which means you're holding either Series I or EE bonds. Because your bonds are maturing so soon, you'll have to cash them in. You can do that easily at your local bank. You will owe federal taxes on the amount of interest you've earned. If you're redeeming your bonds in 2023, you'd report the interest (and owe the tax) on your 2023 tax return.

But you can buy your grandchildren bonds in their own names anytime. Nowadays, the simplest way to do this is through the TreasuryDirect website, which requires the purchaser and anyone getting a bond as a gift to have an account. Navigating the site isn't the simplest, but CNET has a good step-by-step guide that one of my researchers recently used. Check it out here.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
December 9, 2022