In our office, we think a lot about solo seniors – older adults who live alone and have no immediate family. Right now, we are working on an unfortunate case where multiple bad actors took advantage of a vulnerable woman, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars. Although their children and other close family members are sometimes the perpetrators against seniors, solo seniors are at greatest risk of financial exploitation. If you are concerned that you could be vulnerable to financial abuse, here are steps you can take ahead of time:
1. Meet With an Attorney to Appoint Fiduciaries
Your best protection is to have estate planning documents in place. A Power of Attorney and/or Revocable Trust ensures that someone can step in and handle your financial affairs if and when you no longer can. Read my recent blog post, “Understanding Fiduciary Roles and Considerations in Choosing Who to Appoint,” for some considerations you should take into account when choosing who to appoint for which fiduciary role.
2. Have Duplicate Statements Sent to Someone You Trust
Whether it is a family member, friend, or trusted professional, having someone monitor your financials on a semi-regular basis is a good way to protect against fraud and diminishing capacity.
3. Consider Financial Alerts
You can set up alerts with credit agencies and financial institutions that will notify you or someone close to you if a new account is opened or a large withdrawal or transfer is made.
4. Be Aware of Common Scams
Subscribe to the AARP Fraud Watchdog Alert. You can also call AARP’s hotline if you are suspicious of a possible scam.
Check out my recent presentation, “2020 Census and COVID-19 — Be Safe, Be Counted!” hosted by the Ridgewood Public Library, where I address financial exploitation directed toward elder and special needs groups. You’ll also hear from an investigator from the Consumer Affairs Division of the Bergen and Passaic County Department of Public Safety regarding how to identify legitimate Census contacts and COVID-19 public health emergency financial information, which have often been found to be the subject of scams.
5. Find out About Bill Pay Services
There are professionals who work alongside seniors to help them with the overwhelming task of paying bills and dealing with medical claims. Finding someone who is bonded and certified can provide peace of mind.
6. Run a Criminal Background Check on Caregivers
Or better yet, use an agency. If the time comes when you need a caregiver, make sure they are truly vetted. Caregivers have easy access to cash, debit and credit cards, and jewelry, so make sure you take the time to check for criminal background. One of the many advantages of working with agencies is that they vet caregivers and carry insurance.