Do NOT Fall For This Scam

By Lance D. Reedy

I have two clients that I know of that have gotten scammed by phishing emails. Don’t let this happen to you!

I just received this email in my inbox.  The footnotes in parenthesis are mine. It looks like this:


From:  (1)

Subject:  Payment details update required                                       4/11/2019  7:00 PM

To:  Undisclosed recipients

Message from Customer Service

We recently failed (2) to validate your payment information, (3a) we hold on record (2) for your Amazon account, (6)

therefore (3b) we need to ask you to complete a brief validation process in order to verify your billing and payment details (3g)

Click here to verify your account    (Don’t do this!!!)

Failure to complete the validation process will result in a suspension (4) of your Amazon membership.

We take every step needed to automatically validate our users, (5) (3c)

unfortunately (3d) in this case we were unable to verify your details.

The process will only take a couple of minutes (3e)

Thank you (3f)


How do you know this is a phishing email? Well, there is fraud written all over it.

1) Amazon never sends emails like this. The look is all wrong. Additionally, this email is in a black font only. If you have previously ordered from Amazon, you know that their emails are always multi-colored. As the scammers become more sophisticated, expect to receive multi-colored emails that mimic legitimate ones.

2) Look at footnote #1. The origin of this email is from “” That has nothing to do with Amazon, so you know right off the bat that this email is bogus. A genuine email from Amazon would have a return address of exactly

3) Look at footnote #2. The language is awkward and stilted.  Amazon would NEVER say, “We recently failed…”  or “…therefore we hold on record…”  No major company would use language such as this. 

4) Look at footnotes #3. The punctuation is atrocious. The author could be from Russia, Nigeria, of some other scam-infested country. 3a and c are run-on sentences. 3b, d, and f need a comma. 3e and g need a period. Spell-check likely helped them get their spelling correct, but getting the punctuation up to snuff is another matter.

5) Look at footnote #4. Phishing and scam emails almost invariable attempt to motivate you to action by scaring you with dire consequences if you don’t comply with their request. Think for a moment, why would Amazon want to suspend your account? Really? Total nonsense!

6) Look at footnote #5. “validate our users…”   What does that mean? It’s gibberish!

7) Look at footnote #6. The scammer hit “enter” rather than continuing his sentence after the comma. That’s careless. A professional email would not do that.

8) Such emails are also designed to arouse your curiosity. A person’s thought might go like this, “It’s only a tiny little click. Let’s see what’s there.”

Remember the old saying, “Curiosity killed the cat?” Do you want to stick your hand into the mouth of a rattler so see what it will do? If a powerline is downed in a storm, do you want to grab a live wire to see if it’s hot?”

When you get these, study them if you want, but stay away from these “Click/Tap Here” tantalizers.

9) Lastly, you might ask yourself, “How does the sender of this email know that I have an Amazon account? Answer: They most likely don’t. Millions of people shop at Amazon. It’s like carpet bombing. If a scammer sends this email to enough people, he will hit folks with an Amazon account.

You’re welcome to stop reading here.

Advanced study

This second part is for those that would like to dig a little deeper into these phishing emails.  When I highlighted and copied the email into my word document, it looked like this:


WDhjM5Se recently failed to valDhjM5Sidate your paDhjM5Syment inforDhjM5Smation, we hDhjM5Sold on record for your AmDhjM5Sazon acDhjM5Scount,

therefore we need to ask you to complete a brief valDhjM5Sidation proceDhjM5Sss in orDhjM5Sder to veDhjM5Srify your billing and paDhjM5Syment deDhjM5Stails

Click here to verify your account

FaiDhjM5Slure to complete the validDhjM5Sation procDhjM5Sess will result in a suspeDhjM5Snsion of your AmDhjM5Sazon memDhjM5Sbership.

We take every step needed to automDhjM5Satically validDhjM5Sate our users,

unfortuDhjM5Snately in this case we were unable to veriDhjM5Sfy your details.

The prDhjM5Socess will only take a couple of minutes

Thank you


What? Possible Explanation…

I asked my son Isaac if he could help me understand this. First, remember that email and website programming is done in HTML. Isaac opened up the HTML for this email and saw that the scammer had inserted these extra letters, DhjM5S, in the middle of various words. The font size was set to zero, meaning that they are there, but we the readers can’t see them.

Why would someone want to do this? Isaac postulated that this is done to fool spam filters. The gibberish seems to be inserted into words that spam filters might look at. Examples are validate, failure, verify, and payment. The scammer has now spoofed the spam filters, but we don’t see it. Kind of clever, I’d say. End

The Hacking of the American Mind Report #8—Picking the Lock to Nirvana

The Hacking of the American Mind by Dr. Robert Lustig

Remember the 1967 Beatles song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds? As soon Lustig referenced this song at the start of the chapter, I knew this chapter had something to do with LSD, a hallucinogenic drug.

LSD was first manufactured in 1938 in a Swiss lab by the pharmaceutical chemist Albert Hoffman. He tried out his new drug on himself in 1943. At first LSD was used to treat convicts and to try a cure for autism. The first commercial product hit the European market in 1947 under to name Delysid.

Native Americans have used Mescaline in religious ceremonies. Psilocybin is found in “magic mushrooms” used by indigenous people in Mexico. These hallucinogens have been used for a long time in their ceremonies. However, their hallucinogens had not been used in the mainstream culture.

However, LSD was a game changer concerning the use of hallucinogens in mainstream society. Hoffman’s LSD discovery opened up Pandora’s box and scientists wanted in.

Drinking the Electric Kool-Aid

In the early 1950s Scientists discovered incredible structural similarities between serotonin and these hallucinogenic compounds, LSD and psilocybin in particular. Please refer to pages 110 and 111 for more details. Here is the key part:

One set of scientists started altering the molecular structure of these compounds to increase their potency, while another set of scientists labeled them with radioactivity to look at their binding sites in the brain and their mechanisms of action. After years of trial and error, they discerned that these compounds acted as a serotonin agonist, meaning that they mimicked serotonin and would bind to specific serotonin receptors in the brain.; namely the -1a and -2a receptors.

Lustig recalls the turbulence of the latter 1960s, meaning the Viet Nam War protests, disillusionment with the U.S. government, and the civil rights movement. Many young people tuned in to Dr. Timothy Leary’s mantra, “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Needless to say, turning on with LSD became a popular thing to do in many circles, particularly middle-class young adults.

Lustig mentions that some users had “bad trips” and others had “good/mellow trips.” The bad trips involved unwanted fear and paranoia. His key point is that in general, hallucinogens magnify the emotional and mental state of the user at the time.

Later research showed that few users of psychedelics demonstrated either dependence or withdrawal upon quitting. Most were able to walk away.

The Feds Raid the Party

Congress passed the Controlled Substance Enforcement Act in 1970 and established the Drug Enforcement Administration in 1973. They were charged with regulating “all dopamine, opioid, cannabinoid, and serotonin agonists. Heroin, marijuana, and all psychedelics were classified as Schedule 1.

Lustig asserts that during this time President Nixon was concerned about the spreading use of drugs among American youth. He continues by saying that Nixon’s concern was that America needed healthy soldiers to fight in the Viet Nam war, and young men spaced out on drugs wouldn’t be of much use to the military.

Lustig makes another reference to the Beatles’ Lennon and his song Imagine. It told young people to “lay down their guns, part with their worldly possessions and learn to live as one.” Lustig asks a rhetorical question, “Why did Lennon believe this?” Because he was singing Kumbaya with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds?

Lustig poses another question: Can hallucinogens make you happy or, at a minimum, content? Answer: Not always.

A New Death with Dignity?

Lustig explains that there is ongoing research to see if psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, will be of beneficial value for hospice patients. The studies are showing a reduction in long term anxiety and depression.

Special on Receptors—Buy One, Get One Free

Lustig poses this question: What ties serotonin, hallucinogens, and contentment together?

He makes this key comment:

…Through painstaking experiments on animals and humans, the mind-altering effects of all psychedelic compounds has been traced to the stimulatory effects on the serotonin -2a receptor.

My Comments; This section gets very technical and clinical. Please read pages 117-119 for his complete explanation.

Continuing:  …virtually the entire tryptomine class of psychedelics to which psilocybin and LSD belong, bind to both the -1a and -2a receptors. Mescaline only binds to the -2a receptor, so the user doesn’t have the afterglow as with the two afore-mentioned drugs.

Lustig asks another rhetorical question: Can this extra effect really treat alcohol and tobacco addiction? He expresses his doubt.

The Psychedelic Hangover

Recent studies suggest that LSD administration in normal volunteers suggests that the drug induces profound perceptual changes in the way these subjects see the world around them.

Lustig makes further comments:

The big issue with all centrally acting drugs is the concern over tolerance and either withdrawal or dependence—in other words their addiction potential. Despite demonstrating tolerance, these serotonin agonists have rarely been shown to lead to withdrawal or depression . . . they do not appear to be classically addictive.

He states that these serotonin agonists are not completely safe. There is no doubt that repeated daily dosing of LSD leads to reduction of effect.

Some of the new designer hallucinogens can still elicit the occasional bout of agitation, rapid heartbeat, and combativeness that requires an ER visit and IV sedation until the drug wears off.

Better Living Through Biochemistry

Lustig quotes research that suggests that our emotions are just the inward expression of biochemical processes in the brain.

In the case of hallucinogens, signaling of the serotonin -1a receptor drives contentment whereas signaling of the serotonin -2a receptor drives the mystical experience.

He concludes by saying in our modern society the role of mind-altering drugs to achieve heightened consciousness and/or contentment has yet to be determined.

Lustig says that we are our biochemistry and that this biochemistry can be manipulated, and this manipulation can be done for good or for ill.

My comments: My take is that Lustig does not wholesalely condemn the use of hallucinogenic substances. I think it’s safe to say that he holds that there may be some therapeutic value for some of these drugs in certain situations. One example is using these substances to ease anxiety for hospice patients.

On the other hand, he referred to the Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Timothy Leary as being public enemy number one due to his mantra of “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” We can assume that since Dr. Lustig is a pediatric endocrinologist by training, he has seen countless young people’s lives ruined by drugs. We certainly can imagine that this drug use includes LSD and/or other psychedelic drugs. Many of the “drop-outs” are now living on the fringes of society, particularly as homeless and in many cases, just bums.

There’s one final point I’ll make. When I studied for my Master’s degree in education at the University of Montana, a requirement was to take a drug class. This was taught by the pharmacy department. We learned that drugs such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine and other more potent controlled substances like marijuana and opioids, were mood-altering drugs. Hallucinogenics, such as LSD, were mind-altering drugs. The takeaway for us is that in general the mood-altering drugs deal with our dopamine receptors and mind-altering drugs deal with our serotonin receptors. End

Have Your Medicare Supplement’s Rates Gone Up?

Note: We have revised and updated this article from a previous publication.

Unfortunately, Medicare supplement (Medsupp) rates continue to increase. The good news is that if your health is stable, you may be able to qualify for a lower cost plan.

For a more detailed explanation about the causes of these increases, please click here for our companion article, Why My Medicare supplement Rates Increase.

During the past few years most all companies have had rate increases to some extent or another. What can be done about this? The solution, of course, is to have us shop on your behalf for lower premium (if available) plans. Remember, you can change your Medsupp plan any month of the year, providing that you medically qualify. More about medical qualification shortly.

Another smart move may be to change plan letters. For example, if you have an increasingly spendy Plan F with Company X, a good solution is to switch to Plan G or even Plan N.

What if I have a health issue that no new company will accept?

The solution for the people in this situation may be switching to a Medicare advantage (MA) plan during the fall Annual Election Period (AEP and also known as Medicare open enrollment) that runs from October 15th through December 7th. There are pros and cons involved in switching to an MA plan. Please contact us for details. On the other hand, many people are happy enough that they just stay with their current plan. Nothing says that you have to change.

Why is it much easier to switch to a Medicare advantage (MA) plan?

The only health question on an MA application is kidney failure. You could have had a recent stroke, been treated for cancer in the past two years, or have multiple sclerosis, and you still can qualify for an MA plan. Those conditions will likely cause a decline on most any Medsupp company’s application.

However, switching to an MA plan is not feasible for some people if they live in a county that has no available MA plan. The exception is the new Medical Savings Account MA plan that currently is available in all counties in Montana and Wyoming.

How do I qualify for a new Medicare Supplement plan?

To qualify for a new Medsupp plan, in general you will need “No” answers to the following health questions. The language on each companies’ application will vary, but here are the key questions.

1) In the last two years have you had or been treated for circulatory or heart disease including a heart attack, heart bypass surgery, stent placement, atrial-fib, or pacemaker implantation?

2) Have you been treated for internal cancer, melanoma, or lymphoma in the last two years? (Does not include most skin cancers.)

3) Have you had a stroke or TIAs in the past two years?

4) Have you been diagnosed or treated for COPD, emphysema, or chronic bronchitis in the past two years?

5) Have you been hospitalized more than two times in the last two years?

6) Have you been diagnosed with any type of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease? Note: One of our companies will take people with these conditions providing that there are no other major issues.

7) Do you have any planned surgeries such as a joint replacement or a cataract procedure recommended to be completed in the next twelve months?

8) Do you have any auto-immune disease such as AIDs, HIV, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis etc? (Other diseases may be included depending on the company.)

These are the major categories. A company may request additional information.

Routine prescriptions such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes meds are usually okay. Most companies have a drug decline list. Examples are opioids and many cancer related drugs. Most companies require that you list all prescriptions on your application. Certain combinations of drugs such as ones used to treat diabetes (particularly insulin) and hypertension may cause a decline with one or two companies.

Why do we pre-qualify you before applying?

If you have a medical condition that is iffy, we can shop for the company that is most likely to accept your application. One company may be more picky about one particular health issue compared to another. Through the years, we have learned that a certain health issue that may not fly with one company can go through with another.

Why are some people reluctant to change if they can quality for substantially lower rates?

The biggest reason that we have seen is fear. They are afraid that the new company won’t pay its claims. However, this fear is completely unfounded. The plans are standardized, and all companies pay their claims. We have seen some situations where a person could save $80 per month or more by changing out of an old, expensive plan. She won’t budge because she is deathly afraid that the new company won’t pay its claims.

Do you ALWAYS shop for the lowest rate available?

Not necessarily. In fact, there are a couple of companies that we want to avoid like the plague. One of them was owned by one hedge fund that pawned it off to another hedge fund. The game they play is to come out with absurdly low rates. People will chase those rates only to discover that within two years or so the rates are going through the roof.

The game is called “buying the business.” A company is willing to break even or even lose money to get a bunch of people signed up. They also entice agents to peddle their product with high commissions and lucrative production bonuses. Within two years or so they go to the state insurance department, show their losses, and file for big rate increases. Meanwhile, If a person has developed an uninsurable condition, he/she is stuck with that company. Sorry, that’s not a game we’re going to play. We’ll stick with legitimate companies.

How do I find out if I can get lower rates?

Please call us at (208) 746-6283 or (888) 746-6285, or by email us at If you have a health situation that you believe may be an issue, contact us anyway, and we’ll see what we can do. End

Causes of Medicare Supplement Premium Increases

by Lance D. Reedy

Note: This article has been updated from a previous one.

In our companion article, Have Your Medicare Supplements Rates Gone Up?, we discuss what you can do if your rates have gone up.  Here we explain about the two main causes of these increases.

Cause #1: This one is the attained-age pricing that most states allow for their Medsupp plans. Here’s how it works. Company X has a rate, let’s say of $100 per month for a Plan G at age 65. Their rate chart says “Attained -age.” Company X takes its first attained-age increase at age 66. From there it increases at the rate of 3.5% per year. Their rate chart would look like this:

Attained-age Plan G
Age 65: $105.00
Age 66: $108.68
Age 67: $112.48
Age 68: $116.43
Age 69: $120.49
Age 70: $124.71

In this case, your premium increases 3.5% beginning at age 66 and every year thereafter. Some companies end their attained-age increases at age 80, and others go to age 99.

There are some variances for attained-age pricing. Company Y takes its first attained-age increase at age 68, again with a rate increase of 3.5% per year. Their rate chart would look like this:

Age 65: $105.00
Age 66: $105.00
Age 67: $105.00
Age 68: $108.68
Age 69: $112.48
Age 70: $116.43

Everything else being equal, I would choose Company Y over Company X for someone signing up at 65.

Just because a state’s insurance department allows attained-age pricing, doesn’t necessarily mean that all companies use it. A company at its own prerogative may choose issue-age pricing instead. Issue-age pricing means that if you sign up for a Medsupp at 65, let’s say with Company Z, you are always in the 65 year-old rate category. Since you are issued at age 65, your premium does NOT increase just because you advance in age.

Company Z’s rate chart may look like this.

Issue-age Plan G
Age 65: $112.00
Age 66: $112.00
Age 67: $112.00
Age 68: $112.00
Age 69: $116.00
Age 70: $120.00

If you come in at age 69, for example, your premium will be $116.00 per month, and then you will always be in the 69 year-old group.

Here’s the breakdown of how attained age pricing (if allowed) works in the five states we work in.

Idaho: An Issue-age state. Does not allow attained-age priced policies. The premiums typically start around $20 per month higher compared to attained-age pricing.

Montana: An attained-age state. Virtually all companies use attained-age pricing. Many of you have a company that is the exception and uses issue-age pricing.

Oregon: An attained-age state. All companies that I know of use attained-age pricing. Male-female rates are allowed; males are higher.

Washington: A community rated or flat-rate state. Each Medsupp plan letter has its own flat rate. It doesn’t make any difference for smoker or non-smoker, your age, or male vs. female. The rate is flat, period. Plan G’s might run around $190 per month.

Wyoming: An attained-age state. All companies that I know of use attained-age pricing. Male-female rates are allowed; males are higher.

Here’s the bottom line. Many people in Montana (but not all), Oregon, and Wyoming will have attained-age rate increases. Idaho, Washington, and those in Montana with an issue-age policy do not. However, the trade-off is that premiums usually start a little higher.

Note: One company in ID, MT, OR, and WY has its own unique pricing structure, which functions similarly to attained-age pricing.

Cause #2: All Medsupps eventually increase in premium due to the claims experience that any given company incurs. Let’s say Company W offers Medsupp plans F, G, and N.

As far as claims and premiums go, the people on Plan F are in one bucket, the people on Plan G are in their own bucket, and the Plan N folks have their own bucket. Premiums are money going into the bucket, and claims experiences (losses) and administrative expenses are money going out of the bucket.

Let’s say that the policyholders in Company W’s Plan F bucket as a group, begin to have more medical procedures. Bob Goodfellow has an unexpected open-heart surgery and Shirley Masters starts a chemo therapy regimen after a mastectomy.

Those two cases will incur substantial claims for the company and cause more money to flow out of the bucket. Let’s say that other Company W policyholders that increase their medical utilization of their Medsupp plan. The losses mount.

Finally, it gets to the point where Company W goes to the State Insurance Department, documents their increased losses, and files for a rate increase. If it’s 6%, for example, then everyone in Company W’s Plan F bucket goes up 6%. It makes no differences whether a policyholder has huge bills and another has had no claims at all. If the premium increase is 6%, then everyone goes up 6%.

As the people in any company’s block of business begin to age, the claims experience inevitably increases. The older standardized plans purchased prior to June 1, 2010 are all closed blocks of business and have increasingly greater rates of claims experience. That has put more pressure on rates.

More claims experience = more losses = premium increases.

There is another factor that leads to increased. claims. When Medsupps were initially offered, beginning in 1966, most plans covered the Hospital Part A deductible, just as most plans do today. In 1966 the Medicare Part A deductible was only $40. It wasn’t too long ago that it crossed over $1,000. More recently it looks like this.

  • 2016: $1,284
  • 2017: $1,316
  • 2018: $1,340
  • 2019: $1,364

Each year, as a policyholder is hospitalized, Company W has to pay out more money in claims. Even if the rate of hospitalizations is the same on a per 1,000-policyholder basis, the insurance company continually has to pay out more money.

Other Medicare deductibles and co-insurances also increase. As the Medsupp company continues to pay its own share of the costs, it has to pay out more and more every year coinciding with the increased obligations from Medicare. In fact, the companies usually send their policyholders a notice in the fall stating that they will automatically cover Medicare’s increases.

To sum up: As the company’s block of business ages, you have increasing medical utilization as well as gradually increasing deductibles and co-insurances from Medicare. Both of these cause more losses for the insurance company, and unfortunately, this leads to claims experience rate increases.

Conclusion: Both attained-age increases (OR, MT, and WY) along with increased claims experience (losses) will cause your Medsupp premiums to go up. The increases in ID and WA are due to claims experience only. While that’s nice for those two states, keep in mind that their rates start higher from the get-go.

What can I do to find lower rates?

Please refer to my companion article, Have Your Medicare Supplements Rates Gone UP? In addition to shopping for lower rates in general, sometimes switching from a Plan F to Plan G or Plan G to Plan N can be a smart more. If you have an older plan that has had substantial rate hikes and your health is stable, the chances are excellent that we can qualify you for lower rates. Please contact us, and we’ll start shopping for you. End