Written By Own Your Destiny Team
According to the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in 20 elders report some form of financial abuse. Sadly, it’s estimated that only one out of every 44 cases of financial abuse of the elderly is reported. As the population ages, they continue to need assistance from adult children and family. Here are some ways you can help.
Start by opting out of certain old-school advertising. It can be confusing, and it’s an easy way for people to dupe elders.
- Put their phone number on the national Do Not Call list at Donotcall.org.
- Submit their physical and mailing addresses to DMAChoice.org.
- Help them opt out of prescreened credit offers through OptOutPrescreen.com.
This will limit, but not eliminate, the number of soliciting phone calls and mail they receive.
Check their bank accounts and credit cards online to monitor for odd charges. Look for little charges as well as big. Scammers may make a small purchase first to test the waters or see if the account is active before coming back for more. Sometimes, an elderly person will end up with a small recurring monthly charge for something they didn’t know they signed up for or don’t need.
Switch to Credit
Try to switch them away from a debit card and use a credit card instead. Credit cards have certain consumer protections that debit cards don’t have. If they are victimized, the scammer can’t wipe out their bank account.
Find out who their trusted advisors are: banker, financial planner, accountant, attorney. Call each of them and give them your contact information. They may not be able to discuss your parents’ accounts with you, but they still should know that you are there to help in case a crisis arises. Make sure they know you’re not asking them to break confidence but want to make sure they have someone they can reach out to if they are concerned.
Check Credit Reports
Get a free copy of their credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com so you can assist them in checking to make sure there aren’t any suspicious accounts. Checking their credit report regularly allows you to spot any fraud or identity theft early.
Power of Attorney
Your parents need to have a power of attorney set up for finances and for health care. If they don’t already have this in place, it may be because they are uncomfortable with the idea. Let them know that it’s how you’ll be able to make medical decisions and keep paying their bills for them in case something happens to make them temporarily or permanently unable to do it for themselves.
If they will let you, set up their bills to be paid automatically each month and have the electronic statements emailed to you. This means that they don’t have to worry about paying the bills, and you can keep an eye on things and make sure their electricity isn’t turned off because they forgot to buy stamps.
The most important thing you can do to help your parents is to be present. When you’re around regularly, they are more likely to discuss things with you. Listen for red flags so you can catch things early.