It’s no secret the generation known as the baby boomers are entering retirement. With a sheer number as its force, this generation has challenged the nation at every stage of life to raise social consciousness and its golden years will be no exception. Elder abuse and particularly financial abuse of the elderly and the aging are topics at the forefront of many public advocacy discussions. Scams, like the now infamous “Jamaican lottery scam”, are just some of the schemes targeted at people who are older in an attempt to part them from their money. Let’s have a deep discussion about financial wellness and aging.
Often it is a loved one or trusted caregiver who takes advantage of an older person’s financial means. Sometimes the relative or caregiver takes money in an attempt to “protect” the older person from what they perceive as frivolous spending. Other times a relative sees the elder’s money as their rightful inheritance and take the money because they need it now and don’t see the harm in getting their inheritance early. If you yourself are not yet in your senior years consider how you would feel about someone else controlling your money, telling you how to spend or simply taking your money. Now that you understand that you too will want control of your own finances even as you are aging, let’s talk about how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of elder financial abuse.
Safeguards For The Aging
Name a trusted agent under financial power of attorney. A financial power of attorney (POA) is a document authorizing someone you name, called an agent, to act on your behalf. The key is to pick someone you trust who has a good understanding of your financial values and who will only act on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. The person you name as your agent will be able to talk to insurance companies, access your bank accounts, pay bills for you, even buy and sell a property for you. You can make the authority in the document very broad or you can limit your agent’s authority to a single task.
Never give out personal or bank information to someone who has called you. There are a variety of scams designed to steal your identity or convince you to send money. Some scammers will say you’ve won the lottery and just need to send a “processing fee” to receive the winnings. Another scam threatens to put you in jail because of unpaid debt- this one is very convincing if you actually do owe debts. A variation is a call to an older person telling them their grandchild is in jail and they need to send money quickly. Just remember not to give out personal information or follow instructions to wire money based on an unexpected phone call.
Do not add someone’s name to your house, bank account or credit card. This seems like common sense, but often when we get older we think about who we’d like to leave our property or money to when we pass and it seems like a good idea to just add that person’s name to our house or bank account now. This is not a good idea because it allows that person actual ownership right now which means you could find your bank account drained. A better plan is to make a will naming that person as a beneficiary.
One’s mental sharpness to be wary of scams or the ill intentions of relatives is likely to diminish as scams become more sophisticated or the malfeasant relatives more brazen. An additional way to protect oneself is to simply limit what is available to be taken. This isn’t an easy topic to discuss, but we certainly want to help protect our aging population.
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