Vail Daily column: Be aware of identity theft, financial scams
Ryan Summerlin March 11, 2013
The idea of living out your life enjoying the “golden years” while fishing, golfing, traveling, etc., has faded from possibility in most boomers’ minds. Instead, we wonder about how we can pay for health insurance, will our retirement money last until we die, how long will we have to work, will Social Security be around to help with income, will I be a burden to my children, will Medicare still be in existence, will I need to move out of my house into an assisted living arrangement, etc., etc., and even more etc.
People are now living longer through the development of new medications and medical procedures, forcing us to face issues that many of our parents and grandparents did not have to face. Health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, dementia, and nutrition are now more under control than ever before, allowing elders to focus on other issues that are more out of their control. Issues like financial abuse have now become more prevalent as we age. With an estimated 5 million elder financial abuse cases each year, and with only one in 25 actually being reported, it is no wonder that financial abuse is a major concern in their lives.
Living through decades of change, struggling to get through life’s hardships, and needing to face our own mortality has often forced elders to be skeptical about life. In reality, today’s elders, just as in the past, want life to be positive, people to be trustworthy, and everything to “work out.” Yet, with the many “other” non-health related issues mentioned above, older folks have become susceptible to the various opportunities that scammers come up with that sound good and thus feed into the somewhat “Pollyannaish” mentality and can spell financial ruin for far too many elders.
As we age, we often seem to forget to be on our guard for the scam artist who can so readily come up with a new version of a well-used scam. The “it’s too good to be true” scenario seems to hold course more often than not, and even when told to have the “buyer beware” attitude, these slick scammers very often find their prey willing and ready to give up all they worked so hard to obtain to someone they not only don’t know, but also who present no hard evidence of the quality of their company or their products/services. Unfortunately, many seniors’ guards are lowered as they age and the person knocking on their door selling “financial security” for the future find willing victims.
My wife’s family just encountered such issues with a family member. They were only made aware of the situation because a social worker had taken the initiative to be proactive and call. While they were able to take reactionary measures, much damage had already been done. Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa most often may not share with family and friends that they are on the road to riches due to a great investment. So how do you protect a loved one from becoming victimized? Communication quite possibly may be the only proactive approach. All else may be reactionary and damage management.
Fraud and identity theft are here to stay and as such, we must protect ourselves and family from this form of abuse.
Below, courtesy of www.elderresponseteam.com are a few contacts to know if you feel you or an elder close to you thinks you/they may have been a victim of identity theft or financial abuse:
• Contact all creditors and let them know of the situation.
• Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-IDTHEFT.
• Call the three credit bureaus (fraud division).
• Equifax, 800-525-6285.
• Experian, 888-397-3742.
• TransUnion, 800-680-7289.
• Alert all your banks.
• Contact your local police.
• Contact your attorney.
As always, being proactive is the best way to safeguard against financial abuse, and any other issues that may be lurking in the darkness to run havoc with one’s life.
On a more somber note, I would like to personally send my deepest sympathy to Peter Kuhr’s family for the recent loss of Reva. Peter and Reva owned the HoneyBun Bakery in Gypsum for many years. My wife and I would often stop at the bakery to get our children treats before they went to preschool. Peter and Reva, along with the “riff-raff” that met there for coffee every morning, represent the heart and soul of our valley. Her smile and graciousness will be missed.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to www.visitingangels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.