It is a sad and sobering reality that scam artists intent on committing financial fraud or the outright stealing of money, property, or valuable information prey upon vulnerable senior citizens. The threats can take many forms, but the elderly and those watching out for them can have some measure of protection by taking a few basic precautions.
- Do your homework when selecting a professional advisor, even if the advisor comes highly recommended by a friend or family member. This means confirming that the person is registered or licensed and has not left a trail of mistreatment of other clients.
- Powers of attorney (POA) are helpful, maybe even essential, as age takes its toll on an individual’s capacity to handle financial matters. But the potential for misuse of a POA is great, since the appointed person generally has free rein to do whatever the elderly person could do on his or her own. The selected person must be trustworthy, and it is a good idea to have an attorney review the POA document.
- The array of account numbers, Social Security numbers, pins, passwords, and other such sensitive information that most of us accumulate over time can serve as a thief’s key for raiding your savings and investments. Guard this information carefully.
- It may be an after-the-fact measure, but check your credit card and bank account statements carefully for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. If you see one, contact the financial institution right away.
- Reverse mortgages allow homeowners who are at least 62 years old to borrow money from the equity in their homes. This device has its place under the right set of circumstances, but a reverse mortgage can also become a device for scam artists. Be wary of deceptive, too-good-to-be-true offers and high-pressure tactics.