Stop senior scams — take control of your finances

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Miami's Community Newspapers

AARP Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and MORE magazine all have article about how seniors are victimized by scams — most of them financial.

I read these articles in hopes of finding some tips on how to avoid them. Most of the tips require one to be “technology savvy” and that defeats the purpose. The older generation and older baby boomers do not live their life through apps. They talk to their bankers, make phone calls and use their “smart” phones for phone calls, emails and messaging.

That’s just as well. Ninety percent of today’s elder abuse and senior scams involve family members or caregivers. When I counsel clients on Financial Power of Attorneys, I ask is if they trust the person to whom they’ve chosen entrusted their finances. I’m always surprised at the high percentage of “not really” answers I receive. The next question is now, why do they have your Power of Attorney?

As you and your attorney draft your Power of Attorney (PoA) think hard about who you trust. Several of my clients have a family member as the primary agent and an attorney or banker as the secondary agent. Either one is a disinterested third party who gains nothing from your demise. You also can have a good friend. The idea is to have a person who does not benefit from your estate. The PoA also should state when it takes effect. Often clients choose for the effective date to be after a physician evaluation shows significant decline in cognitive function. (In other words, the physician states you can no longer take care of your finances.)

Another source of “scam stopping” is your banker. Ask the bank if they can place a hold on larger-than-normal withdrawals, then contact you. Federal law allows banks to do this. This also is beneficial for you as sometimes we get tricked into giving our checking account number for myriad reasons. If, after you’ve done so, you’re nervous, place a stop payment on the transaction. If it’s a legal transaction they’ll be back!

To avoid the smaller scams, do not enter sweepstakes or contests where your phone number, email and address are requested. Do not fill out surveys and if you do, don’t inform them of your age, gender or race. Never give out your social security number!

There are times when you must (doctors, hospitals, banks), but do so sparingly. Use a credit card, not your debit card, for normal purchases (groceries, gas, medicine) and add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry. The number is 888-382-1222. If you answer your phone and it’s a robocall — hang up! Respond to no questions.

We actually have more control of what happens to us than we think we do. If you are nervous about a caretaker — fire them. If you or a loved one needs caretakers on a regular basis, lock up valuables. If you have family heirlooms, list them and place that list in your safe deposit box or safe. All your important papers (PoAs, Wills, Trusts, Deeds, Estate lists) should be copied and all originals should be in a safe or safety deposit box. Tell your Financial Power of Attorney and a trusted, disinterested third party where the key to your box can be found.

If you’re nervous about a family member — tell a disinterested third party. Remember, your attorney is not allowed to disclose any information you give him/her, unless you allow it.

Now, go have fun!

Frances Reaves, Esq., a graduate of the University of Miami Law School, spent 10 years as a litigator/lobbyist. Today, she Is an accomplished business woman who, when her parents could no longer take care of themselves, learned the ins and outs of senior care (or the lack thereof). She founded Parent Your Parents to assist seniors and their children through the myriad pitfalls and options of “senior care” in the 21st Century. If you have any questions or comments contact Frances at hfrancesr@parentyourparents.com.


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