The Offices of Douglas C. Lauenstein, P.A. suggest various steps seniors and their families can take in order to reduce the probability that they or their loved ones will fall prey to senior financial abuse.
Seniors are targets for financial abuse for a variety of reasons. Failing health, decreased mobility, the decline of cognition, or some combination of the three all contribute to a decline in quality of life which often makes seniors perfect targets for too-good-to-be-true scams. Seniors also often have large amounts of money in savings, which makes them desirable victims for fraud and abuse.
To avoid being taken advantage of, seniors should familiarize trusted family and friends with their finances in order to lessen the risk that they will become victims of financial mistreatment or abuse. Family and close friends who are informed can more easily intervene to prevent further fraud if the need arises.
Keeping loved ones up to speed will undoubtedly help allay some of the potential for financial abuse, but there are several other fairly simple ways to decrease this risk. Ten of them are outlined below:
Keep your friends (and family) close – arrange for a close family member or friend to have account accessibility, either online or through the use of copied statements and records. This has administrative benefits, and additionally keeps family members in the financial loop.
Sharing is caring – create a joint bank or savings account, or turn an existing account into a joint one. If any trouble arises, the joint account holder can make out a check or step in to ensure the safety of the account’s contents. If necessary, a joint account holder can also make major financial decisions. This practice will also help families who might otherwise be facing probate after the account holder’s death. The practice of adding a joint account holder can also in some cases lead to abuse, so be sure you grant account privileges to someone you trust unwaveringly.
Control but not ownership – start a revocable trust. These kinds of trusts share many of the positive aspects of a joint account, with almost none of the risks. If a senior becomes unable to retain responsibility of a trust, an appropriate second party can easily be given access without assuming ownership privileges. The trust will still be disbursed as originally specified, but family will still have access to administrative privileges if a senior passes away or is no longer able to serve as the primary administrator.
House Calls – invite friends and family over. Seniors who frequently entertain guests or receive visitors several days a week are much less likely to fall prey to a financial predator. The frequent presence of loved ones shows would-be scam artists that they will not be able to get away with their schemes unnoticed. The presence of others will also demonstrate to them that their intended target may be difficult or impossible to isolate.
Two Heads are Better Than One – make financial responsibility a two-person job. Even seniors who feel confident in their abilities to maintain their finances should consult with a friend or relative to have a second set of eyes look everything over. Having a second opinion ensures that nothing gets lost or is forgotten. It may also assist them in remaining organized.
Know (and Set) Your Limits – Credit cards with adjustable limits and shared activity privileges are now available. Statements can be sent to the cardholder specifies. This is an excellent way for seniors to keep their families up to date on their purchases, transactions, their typical credit card balances, and where they generally spend their money.
Scram, spam! – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has made an easy-to-use website that enables anyone with a phone number to sign up for the “Do Not Call Registry.” It may not be 100% effective, but it will likely reduce the number of scam phone calls seniors receive.
Opt in to opt out – Through the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), seniors are able to limit the number of paper solicitations and product advertisements they receive in the mail. On the DMA’s website anyone who chooses to opt out of these mailings may easily select their preferences and elect to receive fewer or no solicitations.
Even if no other precautions are taken, regular interaction with family and friends will very likely decrease the chances of senior financial abuse. Ultimately, there is no magic solution. By remaining careful and following some of the steps mentioned above, however, seniors have the ability to retain control of their finances. A senior who takes such precautions now also ensures that his or her family will be able to more easily navigate through his or her records or provide assistance in an emergency.
For more information on how to protect against senior financial abuse, or for more information on how to plan for your financial future, contact the Law Offices of Douglas C. Lauenstein, P.A. today.