Estate Planning Blog Articles

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How Can Older Adults Not Get Scammed?

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”

Protecting Elderly Parents

As our parents age, the responsibility often falls on us to ensure their well-being and safety. This article delves deep into the various ways you can protect your elderly parents, especially in the realms of finance, health and overall security. With the rise of scams targeting the elderly and the challenges of dementia, it’s crucial to be proactive. Read on to discover actionable steps and essential knowledge to safeguard your loved ones.

How to Start the Conversation with Your Elderly Parent?

Starting the conversation about their safety and well-being can be challenging. It’s essential to approach the topic with sensitivity and understanding. Listen to your parents’ concerns and feelings. Remember, it’s not about taking control but about ensuring their safety and well-being. Ask your parents about their wishes and how they envision their future.

What are the Warning Signs of Financial Exploitation?

Elder financial abuse is a growing concern. Be vigilant for warning signs such as sudden changes in financial situation, unexplained withdrawals, or new relationships with “financial advisors.” Regularly reviewing credit reports can also help in spotting unauthorized activities. Elderly people are often targeted, so it’s essential to be proactive in protecting elderly parents’ assets.

Why Is an Estate Plan Important?

An estate plan ensures that your elderly parent’s assets are distributed according to their wishes. It includes legal documents like wills, living trusts and power of attorney (POA). Establishing a living trust can be particularly beneficial since it provides clarity on asset distribution and can avoid probate. Estate planning also helps in protecting elderly parents’ assets.

How to Protect Your Elderly Parent from Scams?

Scams targeting the elderly are rampant. Educate your parents about common scams, and emphasize the importance of not sharing personal information. Regularly check their financial accounts for suspicious activities and sign your parents up for free credit report monitoring. Elder financial abuse is real, and taking steps to protect your elderly parents’ assets is crucial.

Dementia: How to Recognize and Manage?

Dementia can be a significant concern for aging parents. Early signs of dementia include forgetfulness, confusion and difficulty in performing familiar tasks. If you notice these signs, consult a medical professional. Establishing a durable power of attorney can also help in managing their finances and health decisions. Cognitive decline is a common issue, and understanding the early signs of dementia can be beneficial.

The Role of Legal Documents in Protecting Elderly Parents

Legal documents like POAs, living trusts and wills are essential tools in protecting your elderly parents’ assets and ensuring that their wishes are honored. Consult an elder law attorney to understand the best options for your family. Legal documents play a pivotal role in protecting elderly parents’ assets.

How to Help Your Parents Manage Their Money?

If your parents have trouble managing their money, offer to help them set a budget, pay bills and review their financial accounts. Setting up automatic payments for regular bills can also ensure that they don’t miss any payments. Money management is crucial, and helping them manage their finances can provide peace of mind.

What Is Elder Law, and Why is it Important?

Elder law focuses on the legal needs of the elderly. An elder law attorney can guide you through legal processes, ensuring that your parents’ rights are protected and their wishes are respected. Elder law is a specialized field that can assist in protecting elderly parents’ finances.

How to Ensure Your Parents’ Financial Security?

Protecting elderly parents’ assets is crucial. Work with a financial planner to review their financial situation, set aside money for emergencies and invest wisely. Ensure that their retirement accounts are secure, and regularly review their financial accounts for any discrepancies. Financial security is paramount for the well-being of your aging parent.

How to Financially Protect Your Elderly Parents?

To financially protect your parents, ensure that they have a solid estate plan, regularly review their financial accounts and educate them about potential scams. Establishing a living trust and having a power of attorney can also provide added security. Financial decisions made today can have long-term implications, so it’s essential to be informed and proactive.

Key Takeaways:

  • Start the conversation with your parents early and with sensitivity.
  • Be vigilant for signs of financial exploitation and scams.
  • Legal documents like POAs, living trusts and wills are essential in protecting assets.
  • Consult professionals, like elder law attorneys and financial planners, for expert advice.
  • Regularly review and manage your parents’ financial accounts to ensure their security.
  • Understand the challenges of dementia and be proactive in its management.
  • Financial security is paramount for the well-being of your aging parent.

Social Security Scammers Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Seniors now need to be extra careful about Social Security scams since fraudsters have embraced AI (Artificial Intelligence) to manipulate people into revealing secure information, says a recent article from U.S. News & World Report, “AI and the Risks of Social Security Fraud.” The schemes are sophisticated and appear entirely legitimate, making them harder to discern from real messages from the Social Security Administration.

The Office of the Inspector General recently launched a task force to investigate the use of AI and deter AI-related Social Security scams. The OIG recognizes the risk of criminals using AI to make their schemes easier and faster to execute and the deceptions more credible and realistic.

You’ll want to know about AI risks if you receive Social Security benefits. Here are some guidelines to keep both your identity and finances safe.

Criminals commonly use robocalls or chatbots. The messages sound as if they come from legitimate government representatives and trick seniors into disclosing personal information or even making fraudulent payments using voice synthesis and natural language processing. This can also happen on a website, with an AI-generated video of the U.S. president or an official with the Social Security Administration announcing a new Social Security benefit and encouraging retirees to sign up by following a link on the video. The link takes the user to a fraudulent website, where they are asked to provide essential information, including their Social Security number and other details. Once the information is provided, thieves can re-route the monthly benefit to an unauthorized account.

Be wary if you receive an email from a source you don’t recognize. Don’t respond to text messages from people or organizations you don’t know. If you receive a suspicious phone call, hang up. If someone claims to be calling from Social Security, hang up, call the local Social Security office yourself, and explain what happened.

If you haven’t already, set up a my Social Security account online at ssa.gov. That’s where you’ll indicate the bank account to receive your benefit, and you can tell SSA not to change it unless you appear in person at the local SSA office.

The SSA doesn’t initiate contact with recipients by email, text, or phone. Anyone saying they are from the SSA using these methods is a scammer. Even if your phone displays the call is coming from the SSA, know that it’s very easy for criminals to manipulate caller ID to make the call appear to come from whomever and whatever number they want.

Thieves now use digital technology to trick seniors into revealing personal information. As technology changes, so do the means of stealing. Stay current on common scams and protect your retirement benefits and finances from AI-driven fraud.

Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Sep. 29, 2023) “AI and the Risks of Social Security Fraud”

How is Congress Trying to Protect Seniors from AI Scams?

Senator Mike Braun, R-Ind., the ranking Republican on the Senate Special Committee on Aging, led a bipartisan effort to draft a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that asks for an update on what the agency knows about AI-driven scams against the elderly and what it is doing to protect people. The letter, signed by every member of the Senate committee from both parties, asks about AI-powered technology that can be used to replicate people’s voices.

Fox News’ recent article entitled, “AI ‘voice clone’ scams increasingly hitting elderly Americans, senators warn,” reports that the letter to FTC Chairwoman Lina Khan cautioned that voice clones and chatbots are allowing scammers to trick the elderly into making them believe they are talking to a relative or close friend, which leaves them vulnerable to theft.

“In one case, a scammer used this approach to convince an older couple that the scammer was their grandson in desperate need of money to make bail, and the couple almost lost $9,400 before a bank official alerted them to the potential fraud,” the Senate letter said. “Similarly, in Arizona, a scammer posing as a kidnapper used voice-cloning technology to duplicate the sounds of a mother’s crying daughter and demand ransom.”

Senator Braun said “imposter” scams lead to about $2.6 billion in losses every year and that the elderly are especially at risk now that scammers have access to voice-clone technology.

“We’re getting calls into our constituent services line back in Indiana already where this is coming in and happening to some extent,” Braun said. He added that imposter scams can be done without using an artificial voice but warned that “AI makes it even easier because it’s like talking to your grandkid.”

Braun recalled a Senate hearing this week in which Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., opened the hearing on AI with an AI-generated voice that sounded like him, reading off an AI-generated script and said scammers have access to these same tools.

“When you can replicate a voice to the extent I couldn’t tell if that was Sen. Blumenthal or a replication – it sounded exactly like him – just imagine,” Braun said. “That is a tool that the scammers never had.”

The FTC has said it will use its authority to protect consumers from AI to the extent it can, as Washington policymakers look to expand their regulatory oversight of this new technology. The Senate letter to the agency suggested that the FTC update its “educational and awareness” materials to help seniors understand that scammers may be looking to fleece them out of their money using AI-generated voices.

“I’ve never seen any new technology, new business, where the people that created it have been more worried about how you use it,” he said. “They’re worried that if they’re going to get any monetary value out of it, they are going to have to make sure it’s well-regulated.”

“I just think there’s no way that AI can go unchecked, and I’m glad to see the people … on the forefront are thinking the same way,” he said.

Reference: Fox News (May 18, 2023) “AI ‘voice clone’ scams increasingly hitting elderly Americans, senators warn”

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