There are more than 80 million elderly parents without a spouse in this country alone. What a goldmine! I recently talked to a friend whose parent was lonely and met a ‘friend’ who was introduced as their ‘caregiver’. This caregiver went on a spending spree ‘caring’ for this family member. They would go to the bank together and cash a check.
How can you protect your loved one from being swindled out of their hard earned money without offending or alienating them? Long before the need arises, sit down and have an open discussion with your parents. One way to introduce the subject without making them feel inadequate is to discuss the laws in your state regarding inheritance taxes and probate court. If they want to avoid probate court, all their assets need to be listed in his OR her name. After the death of a spouse, go over all the assets and change the name of the deceased spouse to your name if you are the designated POA. This will accomplish two things: you will avoid prolonged probate after their death and you will have the right as their second name on the account to make decisions for their assets.
If you feel a loved one is being taken advantage of at the bank, go to the bank manager and talk to them regarding their account. Move most of their money out of their checking account into a CD (you can show your parent the money is still at the bank if they ask). Ask the bank manager to flag their account and not allow anyone to withdraw over a certain amount ($250) without calling you first. While you are at the bank, ask that all ATM cards be flagged to also not allow over your limit to be withdrawn. Request notification for any unusual request such as: refinancing the house, or securing a loan for a large purchase.
As the second name on the bank account, regularly check online for unusual expenditures. Be very careful if you feel the need to ask your parent about the expenditure, as this may cause division regarding ‘invasion of privacy’. When you are initially talking with your parent, ask them to get a folder with all their “Important Documents” together and give them a fireproof box to keep them all together. This is a great Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gift and provides an open door to offer help. Help them make a copy, both front and back of their credit cards. As soon as possible, make the multiple credit cards go away and give them only their bank card. This will make security of their funds much easier to track.
Anyone who is a regular visitor to your loved one, should have an In-depth Criminal Background Check completed. Do not take the word of their agency but rather do this yourself online. Regular visitors include any new friend, caregiver, or worker who is coming to their aid more than seems necessary. Ask the neighbors to keep an eye out for this type of individual and get their names.
Two additional ideas: Cancel their home phone and encourage them to use a cell phone (avoids most scammers) and regularly check their credit report for unauthorized new accounts opening in their name.
These are just a few ideas for protecting your loved one from unscrupulous individuals who prey on the elderly. I would love for you to share your ideas and stories that may help others facing a similar situation.
Good resource for additional help: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-08-2013/protect-your-parents-from-scams.htmlJUNE2017 blog.docx