Financial Focus: Help protect vulnerable family members from scammers (column)
If you have older family members whose cognitive functions or decision-making abilities have declined, or who are lonely or recently widowed, then you might need to help protect them against financial scams. What steps should you take?
First, try to gain a good sense of their overall financial activity. Look for red flags, such as a reluctance to discuss money matters, consistently unpaid bills, unexplained withdrawals, mysterious wire transfers or a sudden need to purchase large quantities of gift cards. And watch out for new best friends or caretakers who show an unusual interest in your loved one’s finances.
Whether or not you’ve observed any of these activities, you can help your elderly family members by making these moves:
• Have checks directly deposited. You can help your family members avoid a lot of potential trouble by having their checks deposited directly into their bank accounts.
• Seek permission to become a joint account owner. By becoming a joint account owner on your elderly family members’ checking and savings accounts, you can review statements for suspicious activity.
• Shred bank statements, credit card offers and notices of lottery or sweepstakes winnings. One of the most useful gifts you can give to your elderly family members may be a shredder.
• Get on a “do not call” list. Telephone scammers are persistent and devious. By registering your family members’ house and cell phones at http://www.donotcall.gov, you may be able to reduce their exposure to unwanted calls.
• Obtain power of attorney. By creating a power of attorney, your loved ones can designate you or another trusted relative or friend to assist with their finances now — for day-to-day assistance and protection from scammers — and later, should they become incapacitated. Again, you will need to employ some sensitivity when discussing this issue.
It can be challenging to guard against all threats posed by the scammers of the world. But by staying alert and taking the appropriate preventive actions, you may be able to help safeguard your loved ones’ financial security.
This article was written for use by local Edward Jones financial advisors. Edward Jones and its associates and financial advisors do not provide tax or legal advice. Chuck Smallwood, Kevin Brubeck, Tina DeWitt, Charlie Wick and Bret Hooper are financial advisors with Edward Jones Investments and can be reached in Edwards at 970-926-1728, in Eagle at 970-328-0639 or 970-328-4959 or in Avon at 970-688-5420.
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