Wednesday night was my favorite night for television when I was around 6 years old and my favorite show, Unsolved Mysteries aired. I didn’t let my 8 o’clock bedtime get in the way stories of lost love, murder, and especially the ghosts. Our tv sat in the corner of the living room and my bed was positioned in such a way that I could leave my door open a crack, lay at the end of my bed and watch the tv through the open door. Recently, I was ecstatic to find the entire series on Amazon Prime. Binge watching the re-runs was even more satisfying now that Robert Stack would break in on almost every story with an “Update”, solving most of the mysteries.
Although Wednesday’s are no longer Unsolved Mysteries night, this Wednesday is Elder Fraud Awareness Day. As I binge on re-runs I came to notice that several of the Unsolved Mysteries episodes would focus on fraud. Once I got past the bad 80s hair, I realized these are still stories we hear today. Maybe the Sweetheart Scam, Grandparent Scam, or prizes and lottery scams happen online now…but they are still happening. With the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reporting in February that 3.5 million cases of elder financial abuse occurred in 2017 alone this still is (and possibly is a growing) problem in today’s society.
Below I have outlined a 3 step defense to help protect you and your loved ones from financial fraud.
- Sign up for direct deposit of your income (e.g. pensions and social security can go right into your secured account). Contact your bank for help. For help managing your social security payments, contact the Social Security Administration at ssa.gov.
- Only allow someone you trust to help you manage your money.
- Get your estate plan in place. Be careful about people you select to trust in helping with your planning.
- Make sure you have these 3 important documents in place:
A living will or advanced healthcare directive.
Durable power of attorney for healthcare and/or asset management.
- Do not provide personal information (e.g. social security number, credit card) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.
*ALERT* Scammers are now posing as the Social Security Administration (SSA) or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by phone. REMEMBER the SSA and the IRS are government agencies. They will not call you!! If there is truly a problem they will send you a notice through the US Postal Service (USPS), another government agency. (See a pattern there?)
- If you are offered a “prize”, “loan”, “investment”, etc. that sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!
- Take your time. Consult with someone you trust before making a large purchase or investment.
- Don’t sign any documents that you don’t completely understand without first consulting an attorney or family member you trust.
- Shred credit receipts, bank statements, and financial records before disposing of them.
- If you hire someone for personal assistance services, complete a background check first.
- Get on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Call 888-382-1222
- Opt out of credit card mail offers with optoutprescreen.com or Call 888-567-8688
- Learn about the types of elder abuse and neglect and associated warning signs (see National Center on Elder Abuse website to learn more: https://ncea.acl.gov/faq/index.html
- Learn about common scams, follow fraud alerts and file complaints at https://www.fraud.org/
- Check out the FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) site for investors to learn how to protect your money, through games, quizzes and videos. https://www.saveandinvest.org/
Implement these 3 defensive steps to give yourself and your loved ones the best protection against financial fraud. If you are not sure if something is a scam, ask a professional. Bankers, Financial Service Professionals and anyone working for a government agency such as the USPS or SSA are trained to spot signs of fraud.