It’s no secret that the elderly are a favorite target of scam artists. Criminals will troll the internet and phone lists looking for seniors that are easy to prey upon due to an illness, disability, or cognitive impairment. Another reason scam artists love to attack seniors is the expectation that they have accumulated wealth over the course of their lifetime. They anticipate a huge pay day whenever a senior is involved.
Whether it is an overseas predator thousands of miles away, or an unscrupulous home care provider, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and those you love from financial scams. When potential predators know that there are people watching out for the elderly person, they are much less likely to act due to fear of criminal prosecution. Here are some steps seniors and their family members can take to prevent financial abuse.
1. Arrange for account oversight
Select someone that will help the senior manage their accounts and watch out for unusual activity, like large checks or large ATM withdraws. Having extra eyes on the senior’s bank statements or other transactions can help heed off fraudulent activity.
Sometimes it can help to add an adult child as a co-owner of certain accounts, so that they have the joint ability to write checks, make investment decisions, and take action to protect funds in those accounts. It also means the funds in those accounts can bypass probate. Trust is obviously a huge factor here, considering the co-owner will have full access to the senior’s money. And, there are other risks involved with joint ownership that should prompt you to speak with an elder law attorney before going down this road.
2. Create a living trust
It’s often a wise choice for a senior to move their assets into a living trust. This legal tool protects the senior’s money and property, and allows someone that the senior trusts (the trustee) to manage the assets on the senior’s behalf whenever necessary. However, unlike joint accounts, it does NOT give the trustee co-ownership of the senior’s funds or assets. And, it allows greater control in passing down the assets in the trust that the senior would not be afforded with under joint tenancy. For example, if the senior has four children but only one is named as co-owner the senior’s accounts, at the time of their death, the co-owner becomes the sole owner of those funds and they are not required to share the inheritance with the other kids. However, if the senior creates a trust, he or she retains oversight while alive, but also gets to choose how to distribute the funds after death however he or she wishes.
3. Get help paying bills
It is always helpful to have a second set of eyes on things, by recruiting someone else to help the senior pay bills, your family has a better chance of catching anything out of the ordinary.
4. Use a limited credit card
Utilize any credit monitoring services offered by the senior’s credit card companies, and where possible, limit the amount the senior can spend by using pre-paid cards or spending caps.
5. Consult with an elder law attorney
An elder law attorney can help you create a plan to legally establish who can help you with financial management.
Unfortunately, there is no way to completely stop financial abuse. But, by doing a few of these things, you can definitely make yourself less of a target. If you are ready to build this wall of protection around your finances, contact our office at 1-877-653-3450 to set up a free consultation.