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Guide for Identity Theft Protection

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Identity theft and the American citizen

We live in an age where our data is constantly being programmed into various sites for purchases, social media, blogs, and so on. This personal – and sensitive – information is stored “safely” in sites and servers with the assumption that each is secure – but in reality, there are many out there who have access to it.

According to the Bureau of Justice in 2014 about 7% of persons age 16 or older were victims of identity theft. At the time, the population was approximately 318.9 million, meaning that roughly 22.323 million were suffered from identity theft. While not as common as other crimes, it’s still pretty prevalent and it can (and has) wreak havoc in anyone’s life.

Identity theft can be a huge inconvenience, and even temporarily ruin the life of the affected due to a lack of cash, credit, and government information. Fortunately, there are several ways to help fight the theft should it occur, but the best protection is prevention.

This guide was designed to help others avoid identity theft: what to look for, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens to you.

What is identity theft?

Identity theft is fairly straightforward and self-explanatory: it occurs when one’s private and personal information, like their name, social security number and credit card numbers, are stolen and used by someone else. The Federal Bureau of Justice defines it as, “The unauthorized use or attempted use of existing accounts, or the unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information, to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes.” It can very quickly and easily destroy one’s credit score, which affects opportunities for healthcare, insurance, and obtaining utilities like gas and electric. 

Identity theft is a serious crime but often goes unpunished as it can be very difficult to pinpoint the location and identity of the person using the alternate, stolen identity. Because regaining a stolen identity is extremely tedious, the best defense is a good offense. There are several different types of identity theft including Medical, Child, Social, Senior, and Tax​.

Tips for keeping personal information secure

Closely Monitor All Accounts

The first and most important step to avoid identity theft is making sure your sensitive information is protected. This includes monitoring all personal accounts, even (and especially) social media. Knowing exactly what information is posted publicly can make or break your data safety. Checking your bank accounts regularly, even daily, is the absolute best way to catch identity theft before it becomes consuming.

  • Choose tricky passwords. Don’t choose easily guessable information like the name of a pet or your mother’s maiden name, i.e., stuff accessible on a Facebook profile.
  • Be careful about revealing your location. Posting photos will often pinpoint you to a certain location. If you don’t want this know, be mindful of whether the app has access to your GPS.
  • Take caution in using webcams. Devices like webcams may be hacked by criminals and voyeurs who may monitor you at will without your knowledge.​
  • Update your software and operating system(s). Using the latest versions of the OS and apps you use reduces the likelihood of thieves accessing your private information.​
  • Avoid posting anything that could be used to gain access to personal and sensitive information regarding credit.​

Check Your Credit Score

Monitoring your credit score will make any abnormalities obvious, which can then be reported to authorities and properly disputed as fraudulent. Each of these three major credit agencies will provide one free credit report annually, and – if staggered – offers a look into possible credit disruptions every four months. What’s more, banks now offer complimentary credit reports depending on the terms of the account(s) you hold with them.

Personal Document Review

Thoroughly reviewing personal documents (credit reports and tax files) and keeping them in a secure place like a safe or locking filing cabinet ensures that you understand exactly what each document contains while also preventing them from possible theft or manipulation. This makes it extremely difficult for identity thieves to forge or change paperwork.

Avoid Carrying Sensitive Information

This key point is commonly ignored or forgotten, which only reinforces why it is so important to adhere to. Carrying personal information like a social security card is dangerous for identity theft. If a wallet with something like a social security card is stolen – stealing an identity becomes extremely easy. It’s also important to be aware of “shoulder surfers” – those who hover while you’re using an ATM or relay eavesdropped credit card information when you’re on a phone call.

Do Not Fall for Email Scams

Emails that are automatically sent to spam may contain seemingly- legitimate offers or services, and might even appear to be from your bank. However, legit banks and businesses know that it’s of absolute importance that credit card information is never sent out or requested via email. Many online shops steal information via email so be sure to research the validity before entering sensitive information.

Red flags and how to spot them

Fortunately, there are many ways to discern whether or not identity theft is taking place:

  • ​One of the most obvious warnings is money disappearing from an account without explanation. Unfortunately, the explanation is almost always identity theft.
  • Another warning sign is never receiving bills. Identity thieves will often change the address on bank accounts and the like so that bills aren’t received by their rightful owner. This makes it possible for the thief to continue stealing for a longer period of time.
  • Stores not accepting your checks. This is a telltale sign of suspicious activity in your bank account and may point to identity theft.
  • Receiving notice of a data breach with a bank or online service that you use. Hackers target large databases of information and regularly invade the data servers of major corporations in order to access and exploit the personal information of users.
  • Calls from debt collectors informing you of suspicious charges that weren’t made by you.
  • Insurance or healthcare refusing to provide treatment due to the balance, or because of a medical condition not previously documented is usually a telltale sign of someone using stolen insurance coverage.
  • In some cases, the IRS may send a notification that multiple tax returns have been filed under a single name. This means that an identity thief has gathered enough information to create an entirely different life from you, and this can be very difficult to resolve.

After all possible steps have been taken to regain identity, there’s little else to do but wait and fill out the remaining paperwork necessary for confirming the true identity. Regrettably, identity thieves are not always caught, and while both credit and identity may be restored to an individual through the federal process, the criminal will often move on to their next victim.

Returning to life per usual after identity theft can be difficult, as federal disputes and actually charging the criminal can be a tedious and extraordinarily time-consuming process. While identity theft can be stopped before it starts via careful monitoring and proper precaution, there are millions of cases every year of severe identity theft, and the hardship it causes those affected. Because the impact of identity theft can be so significant, it’s important that all measures are taken to protect an identity before it is stolen.

Identity theft statistics

  • According to the Insurance Information Institute: $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.
  • In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.
  • Of the types of identity theft committed, 49.2% is made of government documents and benefits fraud, while only 15.8% is contributed through credit cards.​
  • In 2015, the top five states by percentage of identity theft victims are 1. California (14.53%) 2. Florida (8.47%) 3. Texas (7.67%) 4. New York (6.30%) 5. Illinois (3.51%)
  • Cyber breaches hit a new high in 2016, at 1093, the majority of which affected hit the business sector, with 494 breaches (45.2% of total breaches). Healthcare organizations suffered 377 breaches (34.5%)
  • As of July 25th, there have been 858 breaches in 2017, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center, exposing 16.4 million records.
  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center ITRC’s 2015 Breach Report, there were more than 165 million SSN’s exposed, more than 10 times the number compromised in 2014.​

This rise is astounding, but should only be intimidating to those that do not have secure backup plans and understand the process of identity theft. The absolute best way to stay protected, even through SSN using leading to identity theft, is to maintain knowledge of how to react and what actions are best for each specific identity theft situation.

Stolen identity checklist

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Guide to Senior Safety at Home

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This resource guide will review the steps that can be taken to create a safe living area for seniors, discuss how technology can assist, and how to gauge the warning signs that indicate an entirely different approach may be necessary. It concludes with a list of resources for additional information on senior safety.

Senior population on the rise

• The world’s senior population is projected to double from the current total of 617 million to more than 1.5 billion by the year 2050.
• The United States’ senior population is expected to rise from 48 million to 88 million.
• By the year 2050 life expectancy will increase by approximately eight years, reaching the age of 76.2.
• Also by 2050, the "super old" (those aged 80 and above) will triple from 126.5 million to 446.6 million.

What these statistics indicate is that a larger percentage of the total global population is rapidly becoming dominated by senior citizens. Unfortunately, as many people reach this stage of their lives, their mental faculties can decline, making home life much more hazardous and likely to result in injury or other types of unpleasant occurrences.

This presents a challenge to loved ones living with or who have seniors alone at home. Doing everything necessary to create a safer environment for their relative is of greater importance than before. Although no living environment can be made 100% injury-proof, there are many preventive measures that can be implemented to help keep seniors safe. However, the demands of senior safety - coupled with other factors and variables - force many loved ones to confront the possibility of having to place their relative in an assisted living environment for their own benefit.

Potential hazards at home

Things which were once easy to use and situations which were once easy to manage can become challenges (and even hazards) to a lot of seniors. Seniors who have lost a few degrees of mobility and flexibility cannot cope as well with objects that clutter up walkways and traffic areas. Getting out of bed in the morning can be a physical challenge, taking a shower or bath carries the risk of slippage, and loose cutlery on a countertop presents a potential injury. In fact, a lot of seniors lose balance while simply standing and suffer falls on the spot.

When mental impairment is more of an issue, a senior might become easily confused or disoriented which results in wandering off. When surroundings which were once well known and comforting become jumbled in the mind, confusing, and uninterpretable, almost any dreaded scenario could ensue.

Steps for establishing home safety

For the aforementioned reasons, many relatives go to great lengths to try and make the home a safer place for their seniors in an effort to reduce or eliminate hazards to whatever extent possible.

Consider fall-proofing the home

Provide rails and grab bars in the rooms they frequently use. Then make your best effort to remove clutter, secure loose rugs, install non-slip mats, and so on. Unfortunately, no home can be rendered absolutely fall-proof because it's difficult to identify every single hazard - and some which are known can't immediately be addressed because of cost or other obstacles. In the event that your relative does undergo a fall at home, medic alert devices (mentioned below) are a wonderful support to have because of their qualified health professionals who effectively monitor these situations.

Well-lit hallways and rooms

Having well-lit hallways and rooms is also a good preventive measure, as are night lights for seniors who are active later in the day. Many seniors are subject to worsening vision and cannot see things as clearly as they once did.

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are essential for avoiding fires and controlling them if they do break out. Smoke detectors should be tested periodically to ensure that they are still in good working order and able to alert a senior (or any) resident to the danger of an impending fire outbreak.

Avoid spills and burns

To avoid spills and burns, pot handles should not be left pointing outward on stoves. If possible, stoves should be avoided altogether for seniors. Microwave ovens are a safer option if the senior is still involved in meal preparation as they don’t generate heat like an oven - removing burns as a potential hazard.

Medication

Most seniors take medication, with several taking multiple doses a day. It's important that there is a clear system for marking and dispensing medications so that a senior does not become confused about whether certain drugs have already been taken or on which days they need to be taken. A compartmentalized pill box can help with easy identification, but an automatic medication dispenser is even better, eliminating many potential medication mistakes.

Senior home safety products

An entire industry has sprung up around the production of home safety products aimed towards senior citizens at home. Many of these have been developed in response to a demonstrated need and most of them are at least somewhat effective in curtailing the dangers that might occur and jeopardize the safety of home-bound elderly persons.

Locks

Cabinet locks, door guardians, and refrigerator locks can prevent access to storage areas or exits from the house to discourage wandering or exploring which might end badly.

Shower seats and rails

Shower seats and shower rails make it much easier and safer for a senior to take a shower or bath without falling, and non-slip mats placed in the tub contribute to staying balanced.

Anti-scalding devices

Anti-scalding devices can also be used to ensure that an inappropriate level of hot water does not injure the bathing elderly person.

Wall-mounted speakers

In the event that any kind of emergency develops in a given room where a senior is alone, wall-mounted speakers provide effective communication with others in the home and alert someone that a potentially dangerous situation has occurred.

Home security systems

Not to be overlooked in the parade of situational devices, a good home security system can be of critical value in establishing a safe environment. Especially in cases where a senior must be left alone for any period of time, these systems can be invaluable in discouraging or preventing entry (or even wandering). Would-be burglars aware that seniors are home alone and tempted to target them could thus be effectively kept from carrying out malicious intentions.

GPS watches

Modern technology can help in a great way with home safety for seniors who might be bothered by bouts of disorientation and given to wandering. GPS watches can quickly locate a senior who may have left the premises and gone down the street somewhere. It is not uncommon to find disoriented seniors wandering the streets, many blocks from home.

Medical alert systems

As mentioned earlier, medic alert systems are one of the most popular methods of monitoring senior safety at home and ensuring that a senior is not left alone in the event of some kind of health crisis or accident which may have occurred. These systems are generally monitored by emergency medical technicians or certified operators, who understand medical conditions, and are prepared to initiate a fast response so that a crisis can be averted.

Usually a medic alert system will include a feature which allows for two-way communication, so the situation can be explained and understood, and some have a broad range of effectiveness which covers both the home and the yard, for cases where an event happens outside. Many also have GPS cellular capability, which pinpoints the position of the wearer, and some even have a fall detection feature which is activated automatically - potentially when a senior might lose consciousness or become otherwise unresponsive.

Typically, medic alert systems are used in situations when a senior spends large periods of time alone, and the devices act as a proxy for human care, which might not always be available for the senior. In other circumstances, that human care can be provided by either a loved one whom the senior resides with, by a professional live-in medical professional, or by a non-medical caretaker.

In-home care from relatives

Approximately $150 billion per year is spent on home care and nursing services to provide adequate care for the elderly. While this may seem like an impressive statistic, it pales in comparison to the estimated $375 billion per year which is the value of services provided by family caregivers for free when caring for elderly relatives.

More than 29% of the entire U.S. population, or about 65 million people currently provide home care for an elderly relative and must commit at least 20 hours per week in that effort. These statistics were prepared by the National Alliance for Caregiving in conjunction with AARP just a few years ago, and it is estimated that even these fall well short of what up-to-the-minute statistics would reveal.

In any case, it should be apparent that the number of seniors requiring home caregiving is staggering, that the cost is even more overwhelming, and that the need for caregiving affects a very large percentage of American households. In-home care is by far the most preferred scenario for the administration of health care and safety among the elderly, with more than 90% of all seniors favoring the familiar and comfortable surroundings of home.

In-home care from caregivers

There are, however, wide variations in the types of in-home care for seniors and these often depend on the physical and mental status of the senior. For instance, a physically disabled senior might need a physical therapist or a home health nurse on hand to satisfy personal needs. By contrast, a senior with some form of dementia might need the assistance of a non-medical professional for personal care, for home-making assistance, and for companionship.

Deciding when to place a senior in a home

This can be an agonizing decision for any relative to make about their senior loved one, especially since it will almost always run counter to the senior’s own wishes. There are warning signs, however, which are good indicators that the time has come for some form of assisted living and that the elderly person would be safer in a more formalized, structured environment.

Wandering

Quite often in the later stages of dementia, seniors begin to wander more frequently, because they have become increasingly disoriented and confused about their home surroundings, and nothing seems recognizable to them anymore. This can happen just in the time it takes you to go to the kitchen for a drink of water, and as such, it represents a grave risk to the senior. At this point, constant monitoring may become necessary.

Home safety deficiencies

It may also be that the level of home safety needed by a disabled senior has outstripped what you are able to provide, and a safer environment would be more beneficial for them. In some cases, the cost of installing the many safety devices needed, or of making a residence completely accident-proof, simply exceeds the means of loved ones.

Increasing aggression

At a certain stage of dementia, some seniors begin to demonstrate more overtly aggressive behavior, often threatening caregivers physically, emotionally, and possibly even in a sexual manner. This in turn, can give rise to resentment on the part of the caregiver, creating a mood of tension between them, and even downright hostility.

Sundowner syndrome

One particular condition known as "Sundowner Syndrome" affects many elderly people with Alzheimer’s, and in this scenario, the senior often exhibits very agitated behavior that is typically triggered during the later hours of the day. This has been known to severely impact family life, and to place an undue burden on many caregivers and family members, so that the living experience for all concerned is degraded and made less safe or healthful.

Escalating care requirements

When it becomes clear that the degree of care needed by an elderly person exceeds your ability or a caregiver’s ability to supply that care, this may be another trigger point for considering assisted living. For instance, in situations where a senior has reached the later stages of dementia, constant care and monitoring may be necessary, and this is not often possible for loved ones to provide.

Crimes against seniors

Telemarketing and phone scams

Declining mental acuity, in some cases accompanied by the onset of dementia, makes many seniors inviting targets for the criminal-minded, who seek to exploit them for personal gain. Such predators have devised numerous telephone scams and other methods to deprive seniors of important personal information, which can then be used to access accounts and steal from them. These criminals prey on the fact that some seniors are easily confused and can be deprived of assets with relative ease.

Physical abuse

Apart from such external criminal attempts, crimes against seniors are also committed by caretakers, who take advantage of their sometimes feeble physical abilities and/or declining mental faculties. It is not uncommon to find that some seniors have been physically abused and have become uncommunicative and unwilling to discuss certain topics. They might have undergone a decline in personal hygiene or have withdrawn from normal daily activities. All of these may be manifestations of elderly abuse, either by caretakers or disaffected relatives. Anyone observing these signs among the elderly should notify local Adult Protective Services or law enforcement agencies about the observed signs. It's not necessary to have proof of abuse for such notification, but where abuse is suspected, it should always be investigated by the proper authorities.

Further reading

There's a wealth of material available online which can supplement the information included in this reference guide. If you require information which was not already discussed in the body of this overview, it may be available from one of the sources identified below.

When It’s Time to Buy a Medical Alert System

Best Medical Alert Systems - 2019

Best Overall Value

A one-stop provider of medical alert solutions, with 24/7 monitoring center, and best-in-class customer service.

​1-800-799-6917

Overall Score: ​4.7 / 5

Best Customer Service

LifeFone Saves Lives Logo

40+ years of reliable experience and the first service provider to have customer friendly service policies.

​1-866-249-2371

Overall Score: ​4.4 / 5

Most Chosen

bay-alert-medical-logo

Consistently ranked one of the top choices in the industry. Their systems use GPS, and can be set up for “geofencing” purposes.

​1-855-617-1826

Overall Score: ​ 4.3 /5



Countless surveys have found that one of the biggest fears seniors have is of falling or becoming very sick, and being unable to call for help. This concern is often shared by family members and friends, particularly if the person in question has a medical history that makes them highly vulnerable to medical emergencies.

These risks don't arise exclusively with age-related problems, however. For example, people with conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer's might easily wander off or otherwise become confused and need assistance. Even in younger people, illnesses such as Parkinson's and Epilepsy might suddenly leave some sufferers in need of urgent help.

Even if there is no obvious existing medical condition, medical alert systems can be reassuring for a large number of people. For example, statistics show that more than 91 million Americans are living with cardiovascular disease or the after-effects of a serious medical emergency such as a stroke.

But this is really just the tip of the iceberg. Ordinary trips, slips and falls may also require medical attention. And depending on the severity of injuries, they may leave someone unable to call for help when it’s needed most.

Medical Alert Systems operate on a very simple principle: they allow someone who is unable to move to call for help. While there are many types available, most involve pushing a button on a pendant or wristband that is being worn. In some cases, there may also be a box attached to a belt that can detect someone has fallen, even if they're unconscious.

In any of these scenarios, a wireless signal is sent to a device located in the home, which instructs it to make an SOS telephone call for help. Sometimes these calls go to the system provider, which is manned by a 24/7 call center. Other times, they are routed directly to 911.

Although basic versions of these systems have been around since the 1970s, today's products are incredibly sophisticated and offer a range of functionality, depending on needs and preferences. There are also more options than ever.

To help you sort through the options, we’ve put together our top picks for medical alert systems in 2019.


1. Medical Guardian

Medical Guardian is a PA-based provider with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau that takes a “family-first approach.” Unlike many other medical alert providers, they offer both home-based and travelling medical alert systems, which are easily carried and/or worn, as well as light and waterproof.

In addition to contacting emergency response teams in the area, the monitoring center can also place phone calls or send text messages to individuals on the person’s contact list in the case of an emergency.

While fall detection is only offered on certain plans, necklaces and wristbands will function for up to 1,300 feet away from the base station, which clocks in on the higher side in comparison to most competitors. The system requires a landline for the base and cellular service for the pendants and other devices.

It offers nationwide service both while in the home and away from it. Its mobile plan comes equipped with a GPS device and has an unlimited range.

Pricing starts at $29.95/month, and systems come standard with a dialogue feature so that users can converse with the call center through the base station if able.

Medical Guardian supports 200 languages. They require a 90-service agreement, but do not require a long-term contract. The company also offers a 30-day money back guarantee, and offers discounts for members of AARP, USAA and AAA.

Rating:  4.7


Pros:

✓   A well-known solutions provider

✓   The device is easy to install and use, which is perfect if you’re a technophobe or just don't like reading manuals

   No long-term contractual commitments, nor special “activation fees”

   The power supply backup is good for up to 32 hours

   There's long-range distance from the base station

   They offer a mobile plan with a built-in GPS for unlimited range


Cons:

✗   No automatic fall detection on every plan

   Some people have commented that the font size used in the manuals is rather small, making it difficult to read for people who may have aged eyesight or other vision impairments

   No pill or activity monitoring functions




2. LifeFone at Home

LifeFone is a veteran in the medical alert system space, and has been around since 1976. It has earned an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

LifeFone offers a variety of options and add-ons from which customers can choose, providing an a la carte-like service. The At Home Landline package starts at $24.95 per month and provides a base unit with a 1,300-foot range and a 32-hour battery backup in case of a power outage. The At Home Cellular package starts at $30.95 per month and doesn’t require a landline in the home. The At Home and On-the-Go package is a combination of the two, and starts at $36.95 per month.

In addition to other packages, LifeFone offers ad-ons such as a daily check-in call ($19/month), medication reminders ($6/month) and location service ($9/month).

The variety of options are great for customers, but they can also get a little confusing, too. Customers can see all the wonderful options available to them, but will need to make sure they are subscribing to the right plan to get the features they want.

The At Home medical alert system has a signal range of up to 1,300 ft from the base unit with an enhanced 32-hour backup battery if you lose power. LifeFone offers waterproof pendants and speakerphone capability so you can answer incoming calls with the press of a button on the pendant, allowing you to talk to the other person through the base unit.

Rating:  4.4


Pros:

✓   Fall detection is standard

✓   There’s also a “free for spouse” option

✓   There are no activation fees, nor long-term contractual commitments

✓   Lots of additional features are available

Cons:

​✗   Expensive pricing for some options

​✗   The variety of plans and add-ons can be confusing

​✗   Response times from the service centers that are only average in industry terms


3. Bay Alarm Medical + GPS Medical Alert

Bay Alarm Medical has been in the business of saving lives for more than 70 years. The company has built its reputation over those years and is consistently ranked one of the top choices in the industry.

Bay Alarm offers three main packages – an In-Home, Mobile GPS, and In-Home Plus GPS Bundle. The In-Home package starts at an affordable $19.95 per month, with no long-term contract required. In fact, the service is that price whether you decide to pay month-to-month, quarterly or semi-annually.

Their systems use GPS, and can be set up for “geofencing” purposes. This is particularly important for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s, since notifications can be sent to a designated person if the wearer of the device leaves a specific location. The range from the base to the wearable pendant is unlimited, which offers additional piece of mind.

The In-Home option comes with a base station with a 32-hour backup battery and a necklace button. The device is waterproof and has a range of 1,000 feet, with a lifetime warranty. A landline is required for this option, unless you select the cellular network option.

The Mobile option comes with a hand-held device that is about the size of a page and connects through a cellular connection. The device is water resistant, has an unlimited range and comes with a one-year warranty. It also provides a backup battery life of 72 hours, which makes it a great feature.

Rating:  4.3


Pros:

✓   Excellent customer service, and supported by several call centers

✓   GPS and fall detection options are available

✓   No long-term contracts

✓   Affordable starting prices, plus additional upgrades available

✓   Loud two-way communication

Cons:

   Call centers are operated by a different partner company

   Some customers have complained about customer service company

   Equipment itself is a little outdated


4. Mobile Help

Mobile Help, which also has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, touts itself as the leading provider of solutions involving “M-PERS” (Mobile-Personal Emergency Response System) technology. The company offers coverage in all 50 states and is the industry’s first fully integrated medical alert system based on GSM/GPS technology.

System users can speak to the service provider through the base station, as well as the activator pendant and/or wristband. This allows for seamless two-way communication, regardless of where someone is located around the home in relation to the base station. Its devices offer a range of 1,000 feet from the base monitor while inside the home, and 600 feet from outside the home.

Mobile Help’s devices include a Samsung SmartWatch, pendants and wristbands, a home base unit and a mobile base unit – all of which offer two-way communication. Cellular serve through AT&T is used for mobile connectivity.

In addition to emergency notification, Mobile Help offers a variety of other health care features such as monitoring a person’s blood pressure and providing medication reminders.

Wristbands and pendants are waterproof and come standard with GPS tracking, which is helpful in situations where emergency personnel aren’t exactly sure where someone is.

Mobile Help’s base package is $20 per month. The Samsung SmartWatch package costs about $25 per month. Payments can be made quarterly, semi-annually or annually. Customers must sign a service agreement, but aren’t required to sign up for a long-term contract.​

Rating:  4.3


Pros:

✓   Competitively priced package

   No long-term contractual commitments and its associated obligations

   Optional fall detection is available for an extra fee

   Provides a “connect alert” feature that will text a specified care provider when the wearer has pushed the alert button

   Offers Samsung SmartWatch option for on the go

Cons:

   The audio quality is sometimes lacking when talking to the solution provider

✗   The mobile devices are a little larger than some

✗   Home buttons require a “mobile device” to be taken with them when outside of the normal home address


5. ADT Health

ADT has been in business for 140 years and currently has more than 8 million customers. It’s important to note, however, that this includes both home security and medical alert systems. The company operates from roughly 200 locations throughout the United States and Canada, and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. Out of all the providers on this list, ADT is the most well-known and recognized.

Unlike several other providers, ADT offers a dedicated medical alert system. It’s not just an afterthought of their home security systems.

ADT’s medical alert systems are available in three options, and features vary considerably depending on the equipment selected and desired functionality. It’s important to look closely at the details of each option, however, since ranges vary from the base station, there are a variety of different types of pendants available, and communication technologies differ.

Fall protection is available, and ADT’s devices also allow you to speak to the call center directly, rather than having to make your way to the base station for two-way comms. Panic pendants and other similar devices are also available.

Other bonuses include free equipment and activation, although it’s a DIY installation. No long-term contracts are involved, so it’s a true pay-as-you-go solution. Discounts are available for quarterly and annual contracts, and if you’re already a customer of ADT home security systems, you’ll qualify for a further discounts.​

Rating:  4.1


Pros:

   There are no activation fees or long-term contracts

   Home temperature monitoring is included

✓   Plenty of service packs/options to choose from in order to match your exact requirements

Cons:

   Slightly limited in additional features and upgrades

   Slightly limited in additional features and upgrades

✗   Limited range from the base station, unless you opt for the “on-the-go” GPS solution

✗   Many people feel more comfortable with a dedicated healthcare alert specialist than with a company that’s best known for its property security services


6. Protect America

Quite a few home alarm systems providers try to “bolt on” some form of lackluster medical alert support to their offerings – and it’s sometimes not a happy marriage.

Fortunately, Protect America is not one of them. This provider offers a nice and powerful medical alert system as part of its overall protection. It started in Texas in 1992 and its accumulated experience shows.

The provider uses Alarm.com equipment and mobile app support for its medical monitoring system. Most of that comes with a lifetime warranty, though you don’t own it. Its medical pendants and wristbands come with a two-year warranty.

The solution can connect to emergency stations via cellular, broadband or landline network. The Life Safety options include smoke and carbon monoxide detection, disaster sensors, and a panic pendant that can also be worn as a wristwatch.

The panic button is easy to use, with just one red button on it. The casing of the button is water- and shock-resistant, and can handle temperatures from 0 degrees to 120 degrees.

When triggered, the panic button sends a message to the control panel, which then alerts the monitoring station. Protect America doesn’t specify the range on the panic button, just saying it needs to be “near” the control panel to work. Another nice feature is that the panic button sends hourly supervisory signals.

Protect America also provides some interesting gadgets for medical alerts – such as a GPS tracker. The device is primarily used to track vehicles if they get stolen, but they could potentially also be used to track family members who are, for example, prone to wandering.

The system offers a basic landline-only security package, with no mobile app, for $19.99 per month, with a $19.95 activation fee and a $99 equipment fee. They also offer a $37.99 per-month that includes 10 sensors and a motion detector, and $42.99 that comes with 15 sensors and a motion detector. Medical pendants are not included with the basic setup, though, so you’d need to ask a sales agent about them.

Rating:  3.5


Pros:

​   Low initial equipment purchase cost

​   Reasonable monthly fees

​   GPS tracker

​   Easy-to-use medical pendants

​   Water and shock-resistant pendants

Cons:

✗   Longer-term contractual commitment

✗   100% early termination fees

✗   Medical pendant has an unspecified range to the console

✗   Medical pendants are not included with the basic setup


7. Vivint

Vivint offer a sophisticated system that manages to bridge the gap between home security and medial alter requirements. It offers medical pendants and Vivint's wireless alarm control panel. It is far from being the cheapest system but is highly regarded.

Vivint’s system is sophisticated, and it all stems from its “SkyControl” seven-inch touchscreen panel. The system comes with medical pendants that can be worn, as well as a wireless alarm control panel that can serve different functions such as locking doors, calling emergency services or adjusting the lights in your home. The control panel allows two-way communication. When the panic button is pressed, the monitoring station contacts you directly to confirm whether you need police or medical help.

The Panic Pendant is temperature- and water-resistant, is compact, light and discreet. It can be worn as a necklace, belt, wristband or lanyard, and also can be attached to a wall or car visor. It also comes with an impressive 300-foot range around the control panel.

Vivint offers both contract and no-contract options. With no-contract, you purchase the equipment up front and pay for the security and medical monitoring you want on a month-to-month basis, with no early cancellation fees. The other option is to enter into a 42-60 month contract where you pay for equipment in monthly installments, but it comes with a 100% cancellation fee for whatever is left on the contract.

There are also two monitoring plans, one without video ($39.99/month) and one with video ($49.99/month). The medical pendants need to be purchased separately, at $34.99 each.

The company has technicians that install the system for you, at a cost of $49.99.

Rating:  3.4


Pros:

​   Good-looking equipment

​   Medical pendant with a panic button and LED light, and great range from base

​   Wireless options

​   Very speedy emergency response

​   Flexible contract-less or financing options available

Cons:

✗   Bizarrely, replacing a pendant is more expensive than buying a new one

✗   Some of the up-front equipment costs are expensive

✗   There is some history of negative customer reviews

✗   You may be tied into lengthy contracts


8. Frontpoint (Life Safety Facilities)

Frontpoint is essentially a home security system that uses elements of its technical infrastructure to deliver a medical alert system. The company has been operating in this space for 10 years, and has built a solid reputation during that time. It’s based on reliable GE equipment that’s widely available and easily replaced.

Frontpoint is a home security system that provides burglary prevention with professional monitoring. Life Safety is a feature of the home monitoring that comes integrated with all of its plans. With Frontpoint, you’ll be paying for a home security system and getting a medical alert system “free of charge.”

The system comes with a recessed panic button that can be worn as a pendant or wristband, which must be pressed for two seconds to activate. Once activated, the services provider will call to see what the emergency is. If they do not receive a response, they will initiate an agreed upon action as discussed when you purchase the system. The pendants are water - and shock -resistant.

Frontpoint’s security system comes with a touchscreen control panel that has a camera configured to take a photo of anyone triggering the system or trying to disarm it. It also permits two-way voice comms for verification of identity. The system is fully home automation and Alexa compatible.

The system itself is DIY installable, and is easy to do, and the equipment is both ergonomic and attractive.

The pricing proposition involves equipment purchase (e.g. the panic pendant is $39.99) plus a service sign-up fee. Prices start at $34.99 per month. One of the downfalls is that Frontpoint only offers one- and three-year contracts, and a cancellation fee applies.

Rating:  3.4


Pros:

✓   Can be purchased and installed as part of a total package of wider personal and home security

✓   Although their call centers are outsourced, the company providing service has specially trained medical alert staff available (with Spanish language support)

✓   Easy, DIY installation

✓   Based on high-quality GE equipment

Cons:

✗   Not a dedicated medical health alert system

✗   Must lock in to a one- or three-year contract, and early termination fees apply

✗   No landline options are available, so not a great option if your wireless service is unreliable and/or spotty

✗   Requires a hard credit-check

✗   Only one medical call button is included


9. Armorax

Armorax is a system based around what is essentially a home alarm and security infrastructure that’s supplied by 2GIG and Alarm.com.

Unlike many medical alarm providers on our list, equipment must be purchased upfront. The good news is the kit is compatible with the hardware of other suppliers. The kit itself comes with a three-year warranty, while panic buttons and key fobs fall under a two-year warranty since they are produced by an outside supplier.

If DIY isn’t your cup of tea, you can pay to have someone do the installation for you for $199. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re in any way unhappy with the service.

Armorax’s product is packaged alongside a wide range of home security options and is wireless, so it’s portable and easy to carry with you. Because of this, however, having good wireless service in your area is a must. If you’re prone to “dead zones,” this might not be the best option.

The wireless equipment has a 150-foot range indoors and 300 feet outside the home, which is on the lower side in comparison to others on this list. Activation is through a pendant wristband or key fob. What’s more, the panic button can be set to generate medical alerts only, which is helpful during medical crisis.

What you get for your money is touchscreen control panels with two-way voice comms plus a panic button pendant and key fob. The pendant is showerproof, and documentation states it’s waterproof down to one meter.

The batteries should keep things going for four-six years, the highest on this list, but they are not replaceable.

Prices start at $34.95 a month for service.

Rating:  3.3


Pros:

✓   Can be purchased and installed as part of a total package of wider personal and home security

✓   Wireless devices work with several carrier systems

✓   Flexible key fob that can be programmed

Cons:

✗   Armorax does not sell its proposition primarily on health alert provisions. This may suggest a slightly ambiguous service orientation that might be of concern to some customers.

✗   Early termination fees apply in scenarios where you wish to close the contract ahead of its expiration (though there is a “pay-as-you-go” option)

✗   It's relatively new and unproven company

✗   It lacks transparency (e.g. difficult to find manuals) and relies very heavily on sales and technical support staff to deal with client inquiries


10. Link Interactive

Like Lifeshield, Link Interactive is not a specific and dedicated medical alert service provider. It is a home security company that provides medical alert monitoring as part of its packages. It would probably be appropriately described as offering a “basic” medical alert system as part of its wider home security focus.

With Link Interactive, you must buy the equipment instead of leasing it. The downside is it forces customers to pay for the equipment upfront, although it is competitively priced ($22-$122). The upside is the equipment is yours to keep, allowing you to switch monitoring companies if you wish. The equipment comes with a two- to three-year warranty.

The customer will choose the components of the system that they need. For medical alerts, there is a wearable panic button and keychain remote available. The panic button comes with a number of accessories that allow you to wear it as a necklace cord, a wristband, a belt clip or in other ways with multi-functional clips. The panic button is water-resistant, so you can take a shower with it, and has a nice range of 350 feet around the base.

To activate the panic button, you have to hold the button in for five seconds, and it will initiate a help call through the system’s console. The button can be programmed to call for police or medical help and the system panel offers two-way dialogue.

Monitoring plans range from $29.99 to $40.99 per month. Plans cover 12-, 24- and 36-month time periods and early cancellation charges would apply in appropriate circumstances.

Rating:  3.2


Pros:

   Nice and easy “DIY” installation

   Flexible contract options

   No-quibbles 30-day money back offer

   Widely regarded as easy to use and based upon top-quality equipment providers such as GE

   Panic button has a variety of ways to wear it

   Panic button has a nice range

Cons:

✗   No broadband or landline connectivity – that might be a concern if you have iffy cellular network connections

✗   You have upfront equipment costs

✗   Lacks some of the higher-function features such as fall detection

✗   Company isn’t dedicated to just medical alert protection


11. LiveWatch

LiveWatch offers DIY home security equipment and monitoring packages. This is another system that is primarily designed for home security, but offers limited medical emergency support for its customers.

The security system’s control panel comes with a built-in panic button that can be pushed to set off an audible or silent alarm. In addition, it also offers a pendant panic sensor that is water-resistant. While the company doesn’t specify how far it works away from the base console, it does say that it should work “just about anywhere.”

To activate the alarm, the panic button has to be pressed for two seconds. The battery should last up to five years, which is nice, but it is also bulky, resembling a plastic doorbell more than a panic button. It can be worn around your neck, on your belt or attached to a wall. There is an additional option of activating the panic button through the remote key fob, which is semi-waterproof and has a range of 500 feet around the control panel, which is a nice distance.

The system does offer two-way communication, which is a great feature, allowing customers to communicate directly with the monitoring company through control panel.

With the LiveWatch solution, you’ll purchase the equipment up front. The company offers a $599 package and a $699 package for equipment, but neither include the panic button or keyfob. Both will need to be requested and purchased separately.

Monthly plans start at $19.95 and go all the way up to $49.95. There is a one-time activation fee of $19.95, and you have to sign a one-year contract. However, you can cancel at any time with no early termination fee.

Rating:  2.9


Pros:

​   As soon as possible (ASAPER) support center standards

​   No early termination clauses and fees

​   Part of a wider security system that can kill two birds with one stone

​   Key fob and panic button with nice ranges

Cons:

✗   Must pay for pricey equipment up front

✗   Panic button is chunky to the point of being bulky

✗   Not renowned for easy or streamlined installation and setup – e.g. oddly complicated manuals

✗   Lacks some of the higher-function medical alert functions such as fall detection


12. Nest Secure

Nest is a relatively new company to the security space. While it has been lauded for its innovation, it falls short in many areas as a medical alert system.

Their basic equipment looks modern and sleek. The Nest system overall is focused on using the latest technologies and trends in the industry to provide its services. While that’s good on some ends, it’s not great for medical alerts.

There is no available panic button or keychain remote, meaning someone needing assistance would need to make their way to the central systems console to press a button to activate the medical alert.

Theoretically, the Nest-Secure system it could be used by someone seeking medical assistance, however, it is not advised in the context of seeking a peace-of-mind type solution for senior citizens, those who are infirm or those with significant medical conditions. It doesn’t have an ease-of-use as a medical alert system.

Nest-Secure just doesn’t offer the necessary minimal requirement equipment to count as a serious contender for medical alert provision with professional monitoring services.

If you have a medical emergency, you’d need to:​

  • Make your way to the base station to send a medical distress signal
  • Respond to a phone call and confirm/discuss the nature of your emergency
  • Or wait until the monitoring station service reaches your emergency contacts

In many situations, that might not be feasible.

The basic equipment is purchased up-front at around $499. Monitoring is $19.99 per month on a three-year contract or you can pay as you go for $29 per month.

Rating:  2.9


Pros:

​   Easy and intuitive installation

​   Fairly modern-looking kit

​   Reasonable monthly fees

Cons:

✗   Unsuitable for real medical alert scenarios

✗   Only help call button is on the console. There is nothing that can be worn or carried

✗   Help button cannot be configured to differentiate between types of help required

✗   No two-way voice communications


13. Lifeshield Home Security

Lifeshield is a wireless-based solution system. As with several other medical alert providers, this company majors on home security with a limited degree of medical alert provision built in.

The company manufactures its own equipment. You’ll get a free lease on the basic equipment when you sign up, or you can buy the equipment but you’ll then get only a 12-month limited warranty.

The solution is wireless-based, which has the advantage of mobility, but it does necessitate a good cellular coverage location. When you sign up for Lifeshield’s services, the equipment you are provided with includes a control panel, fire and CO detectors, a keypad, a keychain remote, a wireless security tablet, one motion detector and door/window sensors.

The Life Safety features of the system, however, are not as impressive. There is a panic button on the control panel and another one on the keychain remote, but the company does not provide a medical pendant or wristband. A person must either interact with the control panel or have the keychain remote on them to activate the medical alert. One other potential downfall is that you need to be no further than 30-50 feet away from the control panel to trigger the medical alarm.

Lifeshield offers a $20.99 per month offering, but that doesn’t come with the medical alert system. To get that function, you have to opt for the Security Advantage package, which is $24.99 per month.

The one nice feature is that all of the equipment will come preconfigured, and the installation is simple peel-and-stick adhesives and a mobile app with easy-to-understand instructions. A professional technician can also install the system for you for $99.99.​

Rating:  2.8


Pros:

✓   Reasonably priced

✓   The "DIY" flavor will appeal to those who don't like tradesfolk in their home

✓   Equipment costs are included in the monthly service deals

✓   Comes with home security monitoring

Cons:

   No direct contact with support technicians – calls must be requested via an automated service

   Longer-term contracts that bring with them a 100% early termination fee (though there is a no-contract option too)

   There are no medical pendants or wristbands


14. Simplisafe

Simplisafe is very well-known as a provider of home security systems. In 2018, the company rolled out SimpliSafe 3, which includes a panic button that is configurable to activate specifically as a medical alert device.

The Simplisafe system comes with two options for medical alert monitoring – either through a mounted panic button or a key fob. The panic button needs to be mounted on the wall somewhere, but unfortunately cannot be worn. The key fob can be carried around with you, but only has a range of 50 feet from the base station.

The panic button can be configured to send an audible or silent alarm and can alert either medical, security or fire. One nice feature about the key fob is that you can program it to work only as a panic button by disabling the arm/disarm system features of it. This protects your home’s security in case the key fob is lost, stolen or misplaced.

The company manufactures its own kit which comes pre-configured and benefits from a one-three year warranty (subject to your equipment). If you wish, you could buy new or refurbished items at a discount and construct your own system. You’ll also get a 60-day money-back guarantee.

The pricing is built around the idea of budget costs. The equipment comes in pre-packaged bundles ranging from $374-$499 depending upon the components you require. The panic button costs $19.99 and the key fob $24.99. Monthly monitoring costs range from $14.99-$24.99, with mobile control available on just the higher-priced option. There are no fixed contracts.

Rating:  2.7


Pros:

​   Easy DIY installation

​   Very affordable solution

​   Avoids long-term and difficult to get out of contracts

​   Fast response rates

​   Professional installation available if needed ($199)

Cons:

✗   The panic button needs to be fixed and can’t be worn

✗   The key fob panic button is portable but only has a range of 50 feet from the base station

✗   No medical wristbands or pendants

✗   Need to purchase the equipment up-front


medical alert system_header

Best medical alert systems - how to find a medical alert 

Say you have an aging loved one who needs additional help getting around the house but isn’t necessarily ready to make the move to an assisted living facility. This might be a grandparent or even a parent. They’re still able to get around on their own and live independently to a degree, but maybe they’ve fallen once or twice, and you’re concerned about their safety when they're alone.

Understanding medical alert systems

Medical alert systems provide that protection and peace of mind for both you and them. However, there are quite a few things to know before making your purchase. You’ll discover several different system types on the market - and they’re not all created equal. This guide breaks down your options to help you better understand what’s available on the market and how these systems work so you're enabled to make an informed choice as to how you'll protect your loved one.

Uses and statistics

Medical alert systems are designed to provide additional safety for aging or infirm individuals living alone. They’re used by seniors, as well as by those with physical and/or mental health conditions that are not severe enough to warrant a supervised living arrangement, but there is still cause for concern over individual safety.

According to the National Council on Aging, up to one-fourth of Americans aged 65 and older will fall at least once per year. This equates to one senior being treated in an emergency room for a slip or fall-related accident every 11 seconds. A senior will die from a slip or fall every 19 minutes, and falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and non-fatal trauma in American seniors. Obviously, there is a significant need for improved safety, and medical alert systems provide exactly that.

Brief history

While you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of medical alert systems, chances are that you don’t know the specifics about them or how they’ve evolved over time. Today’s systems are very different from those of yesteryear and offer advanced functionality and features. The first medical alert systems actually debuted back in the 1970s as very simple devices. A person wore a pendant with a push-button around their neck, and in an emergency, they pushed the button to summon help. The pendant communicated with a base station tied into the home’s phone line and would send a signal to the monitoring company in an emergency. Many of the systems available today retain this style, but other options have also emerged.

System types and features

While medical alert systems were once very basic, today’s systems offer more advanced features. There are several different types on the market, as well as additional equipment that can be used to expand the protection offered by some systems. All systems include at least one remote device designed as a pendant to be worn around the neck or as a bracelet on the wrist. Some systems offer a remote device that can be attached to a belt, as well. All systems use a base. This is attached to the home’s landline and is responsible for connecting the senior to emergency help when the button on the pendant or bracelet is pushed.

In most systems, the base allows two-way voice communication between the fallen senior and the monitoring company. They should be tied into the home’s power system and use batteries in case of a power outage. The base should also send an automatic alert if the user is unable to speak. In addition to the ability to summon basic help via the push-button, other features available include the following:

Cellular Connectivity

This is useful for ensuring protection if the landline is down. This also allows the system to be used outside the home. For instance, it could be used when the senior is shopping or traveling. Note that cellular connectivity does require an additional charge.

GPS

This ties into a GPS chip in the pendant/bracelet, or a user’s smartphone and allows monitoring outside the home. GPS technology is also very helpful in monitoring the activities of individuals with mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Automatic Fall Detection

This feature is less common than others but provides an automatic notification to the monitoring company if the user falls and is unable to push the emergency help button. The monitoring company can verify the emergency with the individual, or in the case of no response, can automatically send help.

Range

This refers to the distance a user can travel from the base station and still be able to summon help with the push button on their bracelet or pendant. The minimum range is around 300 feet, but some systems can offer a range of up to 500 or 600 feet.

Mobile 911 Phone

Some systems provide a mobile 911 phone for an additional charge that will automatically call 911 in an emergency situation if the user is outside of the covered area or is traveling.

Smartphone Enabled

Some systems tie in with a user’s smartphone, allowing GPS tracking, fall detection, and 911 calling. In addition to the features above, some medical alert systems can be tied into sensors around the home which provide greater safety and protection for your loved one. For instance, some can be connected to carbon monoxide sensors or smoke detectors. Base stations can also detect temperature extremes (without a smoke detector) and send a notification to the monitoring company.

When should you consider a medical alert system?

Most medical alert systems are purchased for aging single parents or grandparents who live alone and are at risk for falling. However, some systems are purchased for aging married couples, as well as individuals with poor eyesight, or those with mental health conditions like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Really, these systems can benefit anyone who needs additional protection and fears that help will not be available in the case of an accident. A medical alert system may be a smart purchase for anyone who:

  • Has fallen and may fall again, particularly if there is no help nearby.
  • Is forgetful or has a dementia-related mental health condition.
  • Lives alone and needs additional protection in the case of an accident.
  • Is recovering from surgery at home and needs additional monitoring.
  • Takes medications that cause dizziness.
  • Has a disease like epilepsy or even diabetes and would benefit from additional protection.

Purchasing a medical alert system

You’ll find that purchasing a medical alert system might be easier said than done. Some can be found in brick-and-mortar stores, including drugstores. However, others are only available from the manufacturer and must be purchased online or by phone. Below, you’ll find website links to some of the most popular systems on the market:

Cost, effectiveness, and installation

The purchase of any medical alert system is dependent on several different factors. Obviously, the cost will be a significant concern, but you also need to consider the effectiveness of the specific system in question, as well as the need for installation. Cost is one of the most difficult criteria to pin down when it comes to medical alert systems, simply because it varies significantly from one system to another. There are also additional factors involved, such as whether or not the company charges a device fee or only a monthly service fee. Additional features and advanced functionality like automatic fall detection and GPS will also drive the price up.

For those on a limited budget, it might be best to consider a system that does not require a monthly fee. In this instance, the device itself might cost $300 or $400, but it’s a one-time charge. However, note that these types of systems do not come with monitoring. They are usually designed to be programmed to call one or more phone numbers when the user presses the emergency help button.

For 24-hour monitoring, you’ll pay a monthly fee. This can range from as low as $29 per month to $35 or even $40 depending on the company in question. You may also have to pay an additional monitoring fee for non-landline monitoring. For instance, Life Alert charges $50 per month for landline monitoring, but that cost rises to $60 per month if you want cellular connectivity. If you want GPS mobile functionality, the monthly monitoring fee rises to $70.

It’s also important to note that some companies only charge a monthly fee, while others will charge a device fee, as well as the monthly monitoring fee. For example, Life Alert only assesses a monthly monitoring fee. LifeStation, on the other hand, charges a monthly monitoring fee plus a device fee. However, that monthly monitoring fee is lower than Life Alert. Finally, you should understand that some companies charge additional fees, including the following:

Activation Fee

This is generally a smaller fee, but must be paid prior to the system being turned on. Many companies don't charge an activation fee, but some do, including Life Alert and Phillips Lifeline.

Cancellation Fee

Some companies charge a fee if you decide to cancel the monitoring plan. For instance, Rescue Alert charges up to $25 depending on the plan you choose. Other companies charge you the cost of the remainder of your contract (Life Alert, for instance).

Contracts

Most companies require that you sign a contract when you purchase the system. Some are as short as 90 days, but others are as long as 36 months. Life Alert’s contract is a minimum of 36 months and is only voided if the user dies or enters an assisted living facility. LifeStation requires a 30-day minimum contract, and Medical Alert requires a 90-day minimum contract.

Effectiveness

The effectiveness of a particular medical alert system comes down to several different factors. One of those is the range of the base unit. Obviously, a system with a range of only 300 feet will be less effective than one with a range of 600 feet. However, if the user doesn’t usually go very far from the base station, that might not be a concern.

Another consideration here is user error. The single most common reason for medical alert systems to fail in providing protection is the user not wearing the pendant or bracelet. Obviously, if the pendant is on a nightstand while the user is in the shower, it cannot provide protection. Likewise, if the power goes out and the user hasn’t changed the batteries in the base station, then the system will not operate.

Installation

Installing most systems is very simple. It requires nothing more than finding a central location in the home for the base station and then connecting it to the landline and the power (and installing batteries in case of a power outage). Most systems come with the pendant or bracelet preprogrammed to communicate with the base station, as well. However, if you purchase a system with additional peripherals, such as smoke detectors or carbon monoxide sensors, additional steps will be required. In some instances, you might require professional installation.

Further reading

Medical alert systems can be highly beneficial, providing vital protection for seniors living on their own, and others who might be at risk for injury in an accident around the home. However, there is a great deal to know about these systems prior to making a purchase decision. You can find further information about important features and functionality, use case scenarios and more at the following sources:

A Buyer’s Guide to Home Security Cameras

home security cameras_header

Surveillance cameras: security cameras explained

The home security camera market is teeming with all kinds of options and features, which makes the process of choosing the right one a bit overwhelming. This buyer’s guide will help make the research and purchase process much easier by cutting through the manufacturer jargon and providing relevant information for the everyday consumer - regardless of technical background. Readers of this guide should feel more equipped and confident when choosing a home security camera.

Brief history

The first home security video system was created by Marie Van Brittan Brown in 1969. She patented a system of cameras which could look through one of four peepholes and then transmit the video to a remote monitor.

As advances in technology provided smaller cameras with higher resolution, the “Nanny Cam” was introduced in 1992. It allowed parents to discreetly monitor their children and child care staff.

IP cameras (or internet protocol cameras) debuted in 1996. Instead of transmitting images to a monitor, IP cameras sent their videos to computer networks and the internet.

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What home security cameras do

The primary function of a home security camera is to capture video of what’s happening in its field of view to be watched in real-time or later. In recent years, technology has made it so security footage can be monitored online. These cameras can be placed within the interior and/or the exterior of a home. Home security cameras act as a second pair of eyes when the homeowner or other family members aren’t home. Whether it’s to check on the babysitter, children, a pet, or the overall safety of the house, they give peace of mind and assurance that a residence is safe.

Security cameras and surveillance (CTTV) cameras

Security cameras and surveillance cameras may be used interchangeably, but there are significant differences between the two. Security cameras actively monitor a home (usually through motion detection) and then send alerts via text/email to the homeowner and/or law enforcement about suspicious or unexpected events. Surveillance cameras or closed-caption TVs (CCTVs) do not scrutinize the videos found in their field of view. They provide a passive live feed that's recorded for later viewing or monitored by someone such as a security guard.

Home security and crime

The FBI reported that in 2015, there were over 1.5 million burglaries, with 71.5 percent occurring on residential properties. These crimes were expensive, costing the average victim over $2,300 or an estimated $3.6 billion in property losses.With those statistics in mind, home security cameras are a crime deterrent. When criminals scope out a home to burglarize or invade, the very presence of a security camera can discourage intruders from trying to break in. Even still, the more determined and experienced burglars can disarm or block visible security cameras, so the installation of both visible and hidden security cameras can strengthen the security of a home.

Common types of home security cameras

Generally speaking, there are two types of home security cameras: indoor and outdoor. The key difference between indoor and outdoor cameras is that outdoor cameras were created to withstand the outdoor elements of temperature fluctuations, precipitation, the wind, and dirt. Besides indoor and outdoor home security cameras, there are other ones that serve different purposes (see below). Usually, most allow for monitoring while one is outside of the home with either a mobile app or web browser.

IP Cameras

These connect to the internet via Ethernet cables or through WiFi. Video can be viewed locally on a computer or sent to a cloud-based application or database.

Wireless Cameras

Although this can be a synonymous term with IP cameras, wireless cameras can send video and audio over a radio band through a wireless receiver (analog) or digitally.

Pan-and-Tilt or Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) Cameras

Unlike fixed cameras, which have a stationary lens and show the video of a fixed area, pan-and-tilt cameras show different parts of a room or place. Many come with zoom features, with optical being a more optimal choice (vs. digital zoom) since that allows for the resolution to remain the same. These types of home security cameras are ideal for large rooms or areas.

Doorbell Cameras/Video Doorbells

Fairly new to the home security market are doorbell cameras, which show who's at the door. These cameras send video and notifications to the cloud when no one is present. Not only can video and images be sent, but audio can also be sent and received so homeowners can talk to visitors in real-time.

Dome Cameras

More often used in businesses, dome cameras are a type of surveillance mounted on the ceiling for a bird’s eye view and monitor hard-to-reach places. There are indoor and outdoor versions, as well as infrared night-vision and vandal-proof versions.

Desirable features to consider in home security cameras

With the countless features and options for home security cameras, there are a few general things to consider that will make having a home security camera helpful and not burdensome.

Resolution

The current standard video resolution is 1080p, and although 4K resolution is a newer innovation that can be found in televisions, it has not yet crossed over into the home security video market. A higher megapixel count will improve the digital zoom of a home security camera. Although optical zoom has better picture quality, it isn’t as common as digital zoom.

Field of View

Not only does the video quality matter, but so does how wide a home security camera can see, or the field of view. The range of what wide-angle lenses can view is from 100 to 180 degrees. If a larger space is being monitored, a lens with a wider field of view will be needed.

Placement

Where a home security camera is placed -- indoors or outdoors, small or large area -- will depend on the type of camera chosen. Some cameras are more discreet than others, yet some cameras, such as outdoor surveillance cameras, might mean to be seen as a way to deter theft.

Ease of Installation and Use

How easy or difficult it is to install a home security camera depends on where the camera will be placed as well as its connectivity— whether wired or wireless. Professional installation might be a better option, depending on the camera, the number of cameras, and home security needs. One’s technical comfort level is also a factor. The mobile app or web browser interface should be considered as they can be complicated or straightforward and user-friendly.

Connections: Internet, Bluetooth, and More

Most home security cameras are IP cameras that utilize WiFi connections. Some also add Bluetooth to aid in setup while others use networks to connect and interact with other devices. Most cameras have a mobile app for a cellphone or tablet, and/or a web portal to receive video and alerts.

Cloud-Based Video Storage

Though some home security cameras have onboard storage capabilities, such as a microSD card slot, most send video footage to a cloud-based database. Storage amounts will vary, as well as how long video can be stored.

Motion Detection

A home security camera equipped with motion detection can alert homeowners of anything suspiciously or unexpected found in its field of view.

Sound

Some home security cameras contain a microphone for sound recordings. They can also come with a speaker and act as a video intercom. This is more common with doorbell cameras or video doorbells.

Night Vision

Since criminals typically operate under the cover of darkness, having a home security camera with night vision can greatly aid in viewing events that happen in low levels of light or no light at all.

Costs of home security cameras

Home security cameras can vary widely in pricing, depending on the kind of camera, its features, and additional subscription services. Many home security cameras are a part of a package, which can come with multiple cameras as well as startup and monthly fees. Pricing can also depend on whether a homeowner chooses to install a system or a professional company. The size of the area monitored will also impact pricing. The following are general pricing guidelines and ranges. Prices are per item.

IP cameras Low-range: $30-50; Mid-range: $75-$250; High-end: $300-$1,000

CCTV kits (self-install) Low-range: $200-400; Mid-range: $500-$100; High-end: $1,000-$1,800

Separate home security components Cameras: $50-$250; Concealed cameras: $200-$400; DVRs: $250-$1,000+; Monitors: $100 to $4,500; Cables $15-$50

Security company design and installation (CCTV) Basic: $1,000 to $2000; High-end: $2,000 to $9,000.

Home security cameras can offer peace of mind when homeowners are away from home. They can also provide a defense against terrorist activity as shown in the video below from the FBI. With a large variety to choose from, homeowners can find a home security camera system that fits their needs and budgets.

Burglary Statistics: The Hard Numbers

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Burglary crime statistics and facts

According to the latest FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, property crime rates - including burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft - have seen a significant decline in the last few years:

  • ​The 2015 property crime rate was 14.4% less than the 2011 estimate and 25.7% less than the 2006 estimate.
  • The rate of property crime as a whole decreased from 13.9 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2014 to 11.2 per 1,000 in 2015 - a 19% change.
  • Burglary, specifically, dropped from 701 per 100,000 people to 542 per 100,000 people - a 22% change.
  • In comparing 2015 vs. 2016, preliminary data shows a 3.4% decrease in burglary crimes, with larger cities reporting a greater decrease at 5.9% than their nonmetropolitan counterparts at 4%.
  • Keep in mind that statistics do vary significantly by region, for example, the Northeast showed the greatest decrease at 5.9%.
  • If you want to know how where you live compares, you can find the most recent crime statistics for your area here.

While today's burglary statistics show an overall decrease in burglary rates, thousands of homes (roughly 325,000) are still being broken into every year - often in plain view, during the day. In fact, property crimes in 2015 resulted in losses estimated at $14.3 billion.

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There are roughly 2.5 million burglaries a year, 66% of those being home break ins. 

Police solve only 13% of reported burglary cases due to lack of a witness or physical evidence.

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When do burglaries occur?

  • There are 1,495,790 burglaries during the day. Break ins are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6am and 6pm while people are at work or running errands.
  • There are 1,324,090 burglaries during the night. The cover of night brings security for intruders but also means people are more likely be home.
  • Snow and cold are also a significant deterrent. The lowest amount of burglaries happen in the month of February.
  • A report from the U.S. Department of Justice showed that from 1993 to 2010, on average, burglary rates were highest in the summer, with about 9% lower rates in spring, 6% lower in fall, and 11% lower in winter.

How do they break in?

  • Burglars are most attracted to homes that do not have a home security system, but only 17% of houses have a system in place.
  • Homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be burglarized.
  • 95% of all home invasions require some sort of forceful entry, be that breaking a window, picking a lock, or kicking in a door.
  • The most common tools used for breaking in are pry bars, pliers, screwdrivers, and little hammers. All easily concealed and very common tools, making them harder to trace.

Who's breaking in?

A study on the habits and motivations of burglars conducted by the UNC Charlotte found:

  • Burglars are most likely to be male and under 25 years old.
  • 85% of break ins are by amateurs and done out of desperation, which some might suggest makes them more dangerous.
  • Most spend time considering factors like proximity to traffic and possible escape routes; 12% admitted to planning in advance while 41% said it was an impulsive decision.
  • 83% admitted that they specifically look to see if there's an alarm; 60% would change their mind if there was one installed.

Is anyone home?

A report on Victimization During Household Burglary found that:

  • 27.6% of the time, a person is home while the burglary occurs; 26% of those people home are harmed. That means 7.2% of burglaries result in someone being injured.
  • 65.1% of the attackers knew the victim and 27.5% were strangers.
  • 60.5% of burglaries involved no weapon; 30.1% did involve a weapon; 9.3% of victims were unsure if a weapon was involved.
  • Homes with an income of less than $7500 annually were most subject to being present while being burglarized, at 65.7 out of 1,000 homes. As you climb to higher and higher annual incomes, your chance of being present goes down.
  • You are more likely to burglarized if you rent than if you own your home.
  • It seems as though burglars are less intimidated by people being present during an attack when they are either a single female, an American Indian or Alaskan Native, or if the house is owned by anyone young, between the ages of 12-19 years old. Perhaps they feel less intimidated by groups of people.
  • What is most likely to be taken? High-value items like electronics and personal items (including stamps, collections, recreational equipment, clothing, luggage, bikes, or animals). Also, anything that is small, easily pocketed, and can return a quick turn-around at a pawn shop.

What are my protection options?

Not surprisingly, burglars will typically avoid a house if it is too difficult or risky. The following are steps you can take to prevent home intrusion:

  • Make your house less appealing by removing overgrown brush or other structures that can provide cover.
  • Get metal doors or at least solid core wood on exterior entrances. Pair with a beefy deadbolt for good measure.
  • To go the extra mile, install a heavy duty strike plate with screws that go deep into the frame.
  • Add a dowel or board into the track of sliding doors or windows. This prevents it from moving, even if it's unlocked.
  • If you’re keeping a window open, make sure it isn’t more than 4 inches wide.
  • Keep the entryway or porch locked, too. An open porch provides cover for those breaking into the main door.
  • If someone you don’t know knocks on the door be loud - make your presence known.
  • If you choose to answer the door, do so while on the phone with a friend or pretend you’re on the phone. This tells the potential burglar that someone will know if there's a break in.
  • If you’re sure a burglary is in progress, call 911 and shout loud statements like, “Honey - get the gun!” When they know you’re aware and have self-defense measures in place they are much less likely to follow through.
  • If you've just moved in, make sure you change the locks on all exterior doors to be safe.
  • Get to know your neighbors. They're your first line of defense - you watch their house, they watch yours.

What are my protection options if I'm going on vacation?

  • Stop your mail delivery or have a neighbor grab mail and packages until you return.
  • Have your neighbor park their car in your driveway so it looks like someone is home.
  • Hook timers up to your televisions and lights. The same goes for outside lights - keep them on a timer or put them on motion-activated sensors.
  • Hire a house sitter. Not only are they physically occupying your home but they can also keep up on mail and trash for you and water your plants.
  • If you have a large dog, that is a very common deterrent. However, dogs can also give away whether or not a person is home by their behavior. The bigger the dog, the less likely a thief is to attempt a break-in.
  • Even if you don’t have a dog, put a “Beware of Dog” sign up to suggest that you have a bully-breed dog that a robber should, in theory, be afraid of.
  • Just the presence of an alarm system is enough to make a potential burglar reconsider. This is why security systems offer you a sign to put in your yard to warn the thieves.
  • Leave a key and the alarm code with a trusted neighbor that is usually home when you’re not so they can help if something happens.
  • For particularly expensive or tempting items, carve your driver’s license number and state somewhere inconspicuous so police can more easily match your stolen item.
  • Create a shortlist of make, model, serial number and value of important items.
  • Taking photos of your valuables. Keep a copy at home and give a copy to a trusted friend or family member, too.
  • Check with your home insurance agent to make sure specific items are covered. You don’t want to be caught in a loophole because of a technicality.

The Beginner’s Guide to Home Safety

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Around 2.5 million homes are burglarized every year. That equates to about one house every 13 seconds. This is due in part to the fact that the majority of people take only the most basic of precautions to protect their homes. Homes that are burglarized often show signs that the house is vacant or doesn’t have a security system in place - which makes them the perfect target. Home safety should be your top priority. Home burglary can be avoided with a few simple, low-cost steps - including thinking like a burglar.

What motivates the burglar?

According to statistics, the average burglar is male and under the age of 25. They’re usually in some sort of financial crisis (debts owed, loss of a job, or drug addiction) and need a way out. Amateurs are more likely to hit houses they know whereas serial offenders typically choose strangers’. Homes with higher incomes are obviously the more common target because they’re assumed to have more expendable income - and sometimes that makes them LESS likely to report the crime. Homes that are too nice or have substantial security systems in place are often bypassed.

When do they break in?

Contrary to popular belief, most break-ins happen during the day. The burglar is usually dressed in plain clothes and not scared to knock on the front door to see if anyone’s home. Summer months see more burglaries than the winter months, with February being the least likely for burglaries to occur.

How do they get in?

Most burglars start by wandering through a neighborhood, scoping out houses that are unkempt or provide good cover. An overgrown lawn or mail in the driveway is a potential sign that a family is away on vacation - making it easier to break into. They’ll also look for tall fences and bushes to hide them from prying neighbors’ eyes and easy-access doors and windows.

A burglar will also look for signs of an alarm system either in the form of a sign in the front yard or wires around windows. A seasoned burglar will know what each type of security system offers and will generally know how to disable it. Non-wireless systems are not much of a concern because they can be disabled by cutting the wires. This means that if the alarm is tripped it won’t be able to send a call to the police - no one will be notified.

Once they’ve decided to break in, they’ll look for an easy-access point. Unlocked windows, of course, are the easiest but not always available. Sliding glass doors are typically only locked with a latch or when those aren’t an option a center-punch tool to works to quickly and quietly break the window. There are even criminals that have admitted to climbing through pet doors on occasion.

If a burglar happens to trip the alarm he might run or he might not. Those that stay will likely find where the sound is coming from and either bury it under pillows or disable it. Sometimes they’ll even leave for a few minutes then walk by to see if a cop has arrived or if anyone noticed the alarm. If not, then back in they go.

Most burglars try to minimize their time in a home to 5-10 minutes. Their first stop: the master bedroom as this is where most people keep their valuable jewelry, watches, and cash. From there, the burglar will check the office or family room for electronics then most likely leave - through the front door.

What do they like to take?

Most burglars are searching for items of high value that can be quickly sold on the streets. When it comes to electronics (laptops, game systems, tablets, and phones it’s always a good idea to keep their power cords separate because it makes them harder to sell. Jewelry - of course- is small, carries significant value, and easy to find as most people store their jewelry in a box or special case. It’s always a good idea to keep any heirloom jewelry tucked away in storage and other valuable pieces in separate locations. The same goes for credit cards and ID’s as they can easily be used fraudulently, destroying your credit and costing you a significant amount of money and time.

How can I protect my stuff?

One thing you can do is inscribe your driver’s license number and state into an inconspicuous place on your valuable items. This way the police will be able to easily match the item to you. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of each valuable item and record their serial numbers. Here are some small steps you can take to avoid burglary or help recover stolen items:

Jewelry & Watches:

  • Do not keep them all in one place.
  • Avoid storing them in the master bedroom.
  • Jewelry boxes are a dead giveaway.

Phones / iPads:

  • Always keep them locked with a password or PIN.
  • Activate “Find My Phone” feature on the device.
  • Write down serial numbers & unique details/inscriptions.

Game Systems & Laptops:

  • Store power cords separately; it makes them harder to sell.
  • Criminals do not like to do extra work to source new cords.
  • Hide in a locked cabinet rather than out in the open.

Credit Cards / ID / Cash:

  • Store in a file or, preferably, a lockbox or safe.

ATV’s / Mopeds / Vehicles:

  • Keep garages & outbuildings locked at all times.
  • Store keys separately from vehicles.

Large Electronics / TV’s:

  • Inscribe your driver’s license number and state into an inconspicuous place to prove ownership.

Valuable Items / Decor:

  • Take photos of each item and record serial numbers, value and pertinent details for identification.

How can I protect myself?

If you’re home and someone suspicious knocks on your door:

  • Make your presence known.
  • Don’t have to open the door; talking through the window is fine.
  • Call a friend and keep them on the phone with you so they can call the police if something goes wrong. Just the threat of you being on the phone will generally deter a potential burglar.
  • When you’re home, make sure you leave a light or the TV on; these are clear signals that someone is present and that breaking in would not be a good idea.

When you’re not home, don’t make it obvious:

  • Don’t advertise on Facebook that you’re going to the Bahamas for a week with your family; potential thieves see that as an open invitation.
  • Keep your house buttoned up so people can’t see into your house and what you have. The easiest way for a burglar to case your home is to look through a glass door. As pretty as they are, they invite prying eyes. Keep shades drawn and doors locked for the most protection.
  • If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, it is wise to hire a house sitter to stay there for a few nights to collect your mail, mow your lawn, and park their car in your driveway so it looks like someone is there.
  • Get a dog. The larger the dog, the more intimidating they are to the intruder. Bully breeds are territorial and more prone to protecting your family. However, a dog may also tell the burglar whether or not you’re home by their behavior. Don’t want a dog? Just a “Beware of Dog” sign is enough to deter some robbers.

See if there’s a Neighborhood Watch program:

  • Pay attention to and take advantage of your community. The more familiar you are with each other’s habits the more likely it is that you’ll notice when something's not right. An active Neighborhood Watch can be a huge deterrent for potential burglars. If you don’t already have a program, you can start one by contacting your local police department and following their guidelines.

Home security systems - how to get started

Having an alarm system is a good way to step up your home’s level of security. Though it may seem like a daunting task, it can be tackled rather easily. Your local security company will assess your home and provide a quote as to how much it would cost to add the appropriate sensors and alarms. Often times, local businesses are affiliates of larger security equipment makers and can sell you their equipment and/or install it for you. Otherwise you can buy systems online or at large home improvement retailers.

Which type of home surveillance do I use?

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to do a combination of things if you want to cover all your bases.

  • Video surveillance at the main entrance is a huge deterrent and helps identify burglars.
  • Set a door alarm set on every external door and a window sensor on all main-level windows.
  • Consider sensors that detect breaking glass and trigger the alarms.
  • If you’re going above and beyond, install indoor video in all major rooms. Not only will this protect from intruders going unseen but also lets you see what’s going on when you’ve got a babysitter.
  • With an audio connection, you can speak with the people in the room and let them know that you’re watching or solve a problem for them from wherever you are.
  • Choose a company or plan that offers 24/7 support.
  • Be aware of monthly support charges. Some companies charge, others don’t.
  • Read others’ Yelp ratings / video reviews.

Wireless: There are pros and cons to wireless alarms. Without wires, there are no cables for a burglar to cut to bypass your alarm. However, you have to keep an eye on battery levels and your wireless network connection.

Video: Consider video surveillance. If your house is broken into, having a visual on what the person looks like can help the police find the perpetrator. Also, if the burglar sees video surveillance they’re more likely to change their mind and run.

Audio: Any audible alarm with a siren is going to be a significant deterrent.

Video with audio: There are some cameras that let you communicate through a microphone/speaker system so that you can give instructions to the UPS man or let a potential thief know that you’re watching. A few types of doorbells offer video surveillance when they sense someone nearby. Most also let you communicate through them.

Fake it: If you can’t afford a home security system, that’s ok. You can buy fake cameras with lights that make the potential intruder think you’ve shelled out the cash for one.

App-enabled: Accessibility is important these days. If a sensor goes off while you’re at work, many systems can notify you on your cell phone. If video is installed, you can even monitor the video feeds from anywhere.

My home was invaded, now what?

Taking basic measures to protect yourself is important and should not be put off. Burglars will typically avoid a house that looks difficult, so a little effort goes a long way.

  • Immediately call the authorities.
  • Let them know someone has been in your home.
  • Go to a neighbor’s house and wait for the police to arrive; you don’t want to be there if the burglar comes back for more.
  • Do not touch anything that the burglar may have touched because this would obscure potential evidence like fingerprints. This includes door handles, windows, and items that may have been moved or knocked down.
  • When the police arrive, tell them what is missing.
  • Provide them with pictures and serial numbers of the missing items.
  • Contact your insurance company and file a claim as soon as possible.