How Can I Protect My Elderly Parent's Money?
If you have an aging parent or loved one, it’s important to help them protect their savings and assets from fraud and mismanagement. Elderly individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may have trouble managing their money. Others may have trouble hearing, seeing or using technology, which can make them vulnerable to online hackers and scam artists. If you are worried about your parent’s ability to manage their finances, take these steps:
Watch for Warning Signs
These kinds of mistakes and mishaps usually occur with warning signs. Watch out for these signs that indicate something might be wrong:
Problems making everyday transactions, such as checking their bank account, paying bills, maintaining financial documents or buying goods online or in person.
- Missed or overdue bills.
- Strange items they forgot they purchased.
- Missing or unaccounted for money.
- Trouble accessing or communicating with their financial institution.
Look out for other warning signs that their health or safety may be impaired:
- Unusually shy or distant behavior.
- Suddenly unwilling to talk about money.
- Problems speaking or completing basic tasks.
Keep in mind that some individuals may be too embarrassed to talk about these issues or bring them up. If you notice one or more of these warning signs, address the situation immediately and let them know that you’re there to help and support them.
Before you act, it’s important to create a dialogue with your elderly parent or loved one. Let them know that you are concerned about their well-being and want to protect them from fraud. Avoid making demands or shaming your parent. Remind them that these threats are evolving and that many scam artists and fraudsters target senior citizens.
If they receive a strange call or email, it could be a phishing scam. Encourage them to call you right away before giving out their personal information or responding online. Remind them that they should never give out personal information like their bank account number or social security number over the phone, email or text message.
Set Up Automatic Protections
You can use technology to protect your parents from financial senior scams. If they don’t know how to use a computer or mobile device, make sure they can still easily visit their bank or credit union in person or call a representative over the phone to check their account.
Try to simplify their financial lifestyle as much as possible. Use automatic deductions and online payments, so they don’t have to worry about paying their bills.
If your parents use the internet, help them install spam protection on their computer or mobile device. You can also add their name to the National Do Not Call Registry, so they don’t receive as many spam messages.
Consider a Joint Account
If it makes sense for your parent’s finances, you can talk to them about setting up a joint bank account. If they agree, you can then contact their financial institution with them to learn more about the process involved.
A joint account would allow you to monitor their finances. You can make sure their bills are paid on time and that no one else has access to their account. You can even set up automatic notifications, so you get a message if they do anything out of the ordinary with their money.
Opening a joint account can also be a risk. Remember that you will both be responsible for the account. Your parent’s activity may start to impact your credit score, especially if they have a lot of outstanding debt. Make sure your parents can maintain their finances and have a good credit history, so their credit history won’t negatively affect your credit score.
Designate a Trusted POA
Talk with your parents about designating a durable power of attorney (POA). This person will act on behalf of your elderly parent if they are no longer able to make decisions. You will need to discuss the issue with your siblings and loved ones, but the POA should be responsible and reliable.
The POA may have to make frequent trips to visit your parent in person, so consider avoiding choosing someone that lives far away.
Consider setting up a meeting with an estate planning or elder law attorney to go over what legal documents may be beneficial in your situation.
No one should have to worry about their parents accidentally losing all their savings at a moment’s notice. If your parents are aging and can no longer manage their finances, use these tips to protect them from money scams and abuse. Visit the Ent Security Center to learn more about how you can keep your parents’ assets safe and secure.