Today, many adults have elderly parents who live independently. As the number of digital scammers preying on the elderly increases, however, your aging parents are at higher risk of financial fraud.
“You must be ready to safeguard your parents against the growing threat of digital scammers and become their trusted advocate,” says Laura J. LaTourette, CFP.® Not long ago, LaTourette had to come to the aid of her own mother, who had been targeted by scammers pretending to help upgrade her computer.
Here are several tips LaTourette offers for protecting your parents’ finances as they age:
• Talk it over. Sometimes talking about money is tricky, even with close family members. Older adults need to understand that they are at risk for fraud if they don’t have someone to help manage their money as they age. Ask about spending, saving and philanthropic habits, and know who has access to your parents’ account information.
• Form a team. Enlist other family members if needed, and identify other trusted contacts with whom your parents feel comfortable discussing money matters. If your parents work with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional, set up a meeting to talk about fraud protection and create an elder care plan for your parents.
• Make safety simple. Set up online account information, and show your parents how they and you can monitor account activity. Set up automatic withdrawals for monthly bills. If your parents still like to review and balance their checking accounts each month, use that as an opportunity to identify anything that looks out of the ordinary.
• Establish power of attorney. As parents age, they may need someone else to communicate with financial institutions or health care providers. Make sure your parents have an updated power of attorney that lists you and/or any other trusted contacts. The same goes for a medical power of attorney.
• Shred what you can. Many older adults have financial documents that don’t need to be kept, but because of sensitive information cannot simply be thrown out or recycled. Once you identify old financial documents, either shred them yourself at home or gather boxes of material to take to a community shredding event, which occur periodically in most communities.
• Check their credit. Be sure to monitor your parents’ credit reports at least once a year; this helps ensure that no one is opening any false accounts using their identities. Visit LetsMakeAPlan.org for more information on how to assist your parents in safeguarding their finances as they age.
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