Everyone becomes more vulnerable to scams and financial abuse as we age into our later years, reports a recent article from Kiplinger, “Seven Ways to Protect Older Adults from Financial Abuse.” Older people are swindled out of more than $3 billion every year, and more than 3.5 million people are victims of financial exploitation every year. Protecting financial well-being requires prevention, which also applies to younger adults.
Maintain a heightened awareness level. Talk with family members about the potential risks from thieves, online and in real life. Know that exploitation by family members is just as likely, sometimes more so, than by strangers.
Maintain open communication. Just like meeting with an estate planning attorney regularly to ensure legal affairs are in order, check in with trusted loved ones about their financial status regularly. Talking about money among families can be challenging, depending on the family’s history and dynamics. Nevertheless, an open and ongoing dialogue will help with early detection and prevention of financial abuse.
Arrange for a Durable Power of Attorney. The person selected as a Power of Attorney (POA) should be trustworthy and capable of managing finances in case of incapacity. Talk with your estate planning attorney about whether you need to apply certain limitations for your POA or if it should be a broad document. If you are a “solo ager,” you may want to ask your estate planning attorney to act as your POA.
Make sure your estate planning is in order. Estate planning is an essential area of protection for people of any age, especially older adults. If your will, trust, or estate planning documents have not been updated in more than four years, it’s time to make an appointment with your attorney. There are many legal options for safeguarding assets and ensuring that your wishes are followed.
Monitor accounts regularly. Reviewing monthly statements from investments, banks and other accounts is essential for protecting assets. A few simple steps can avert fraud, including freezing credit, setting stricter controls on social media and setting phones to send unknown callers to voicemail.
Signing up for financial account and credit monitoring helps detect irregularities or unauthorized transactions. Allowing a trusted loved one to monitor accounts may make sense, depending on support needs and comfort level.
Safeguard personal information. If you’re using your birthday or your pet’s name as a password, it’s time for new passwords. The digital world has increased risks, and endless scammers with highly technical skills exist. Consider using two-factor authentication where possible—you can’t get into your account until you confirm with a code sent to your phone, text, or email. It is an added step and effective in protecting accounts.
Stay Up to Date on Scams. Financial scams come and go in waves, like fashion. Some people still receive emails about having been chosen by an overseas family who needs to bring huge wealth to America. Others have been targeted by romantic scammers on dating websites. There are Medicare scams, charity scams, IRS impersonation scams, sweepstakes scams and grandparent scams. In other words, thieves try to access accounts and funds in many ways. Be vigilant!
Reference: Kiplinger (Jan. 8, 2024) “Seven Ways to Protect Older Adults from Financial Abuse”