Today’s news:

The Civic Scene: Elderly should keep eye out for numerous types of scams

As the holidays approach, many scam artists try to separate us from our money. One scam has to do with lottery tickets. Scammers write to say they won a lottery in a foreign country but cannot collect the money. They promise to share the money with you if you send them some money to show your good faith.

The scammers then send the ticket, which you can cash. Either you can have all the money or you can keep some of the money and send them the balance. The money would be sent to a foreign country so U.S. authorities cannot track the criminals.

A version of this scam is called the Nigerian scam — same idea only there is an inheritance or a settlement from a business deal. You are supposed to send money and the scammers will share the windfall when the money is collected or you collect the money and share it. With e-mail, it is hard to track down the people doing the con. These criminals send out thousands of e-mails, hoping someone will fall for the scam.

Today, with the federal government sending out $250 Medicare rebate checks, crooks are trying to get information about you so they can steal from you. Criminals are calling older people and saying they can get them the money faster. They ask for information such as their bank, their ID number and special codes. With this information, criminals can steal money from the bank account or create a credit card in your name.

Criminals always try to obtain information from people so they can steal from their bank accounts. Sometimes someone calls up saying he is from your bank or a federal agency and wants to verify information because there has been a problem. Just hang up. Sometimes they set up a fake charge account using any information they send you. This is why it is wise to shred any papers with names, addresses or account numbers. I am annoyed with banks or organizations I belong or do not belong to sending me applications for charge accounts. I shred this information.

Another scam is when criminals send you official-looking checks and ask you to be a mystery shopper. Lately they have been coming from the Tennessee Department of Labor or Maryland. The criminals say you should deposit the check, use some of it to shop in a particular large store or keep some of the money and then wire it overseas.

Always go over your credit card statement to make sure the things you are charged for you actually bought. Sometimes a clerk in a store will steal your number and sell it to criminals, charge your account for goods. Keep alert, shred anything with your information on it and do not give personal information over the phone unless you know who they are.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Our education and city leaders have been equating test scores with success in teaching. As we have said previously, our students are tested by several different entities.

They want to equate the success of teachers with students’ higher test scores in reading and math. Some teachers even have to do less science or art. Playtime in kindergarten to acclimate students is out. They want to fire teachers whose students do not improve each year.

The test scores had been going up over the last few years. But then they realized the tests had become predictable and teachers were teaching to the test, so this past year the state made the tests harder. There have been complaints that students only had to answer about 35 percent of the questions correctly on a math test to pass. With this year’s tests made harder, fewer students passed.

This means revamping the school system, closing schools and shifting the staff around, creating charter schools, giving bonuses and threatening to fire teachers whose students do not score high does not seem to be the solution.

Perhaps listening to parents and teachers would help. Perhaps those lessons teachers are supposed to follow should be re-evaluated. Schools are not businesses nor students commodities.

They will grade schools on a curve this year so the schools will look good, but the amount of learning has not increased and our nation is not producing creative students out of students who suffer from so many problems. If charter schools keep picking the best students available and do not pick low-performing, special education or foreign-language students, they will look good at the expense of public schools and the business community.

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