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What can you do to keep predators from scamming your parents out of the money they saved over a lifetime?

Part of the problem is that laws designed to protect their privacy can handcuff your efforts to intervene to help. “You’ll need your parents’ consent to monitor accounts,” says Dean Graybill, a Vice President for Litigation with AARP Foundation, “and they’ll need to give you Power of Attorney to act on their behalf.”

To get your parents to cede that control, you’ll need patience and trust. The best course: lead with empathy and compassion. If you can open the door to having your help accepted, here’s a checklist of what you can do:

1. Protect their identities

  • Ask to go over their credit reports with them. Be certain that someone else hasn’t opened an account in your parents’ names.
  • Help them put a credit freeze in place to ensure new credit can’t be opened in their names.
  • Ask your parents not to carry their social security cards and to give out their SSN only when absolutely necessary.

2. Safeguard their phones

  • Make sure your loved ones have a voicemail system and ask them to let any call go there if it’s from a number that they don’t know.
  • Ask questions like, “What would you do if someone called and said your grandchild is in trouble?” Running through scenarios will help keep them from getting caught off guard.
  • Get a call-blocking app to screen out spam calls on their smartphones.

3. Become their advocate

  • Be sure you are listed as a trusted contact on their investment accounts.
  • If your parents are not ready to give you Power of Attorney over their accounts, ask them to authorize investment firms to send you duplicate copies of statements.

4. Upgrade their tech

  • Make sure that computers are running the latest version of Windows and that other updates have been completed. If necessary, purchase late-generation virus protection software.
  • Check that their wi-fi network at home is password protected.
  • Help them manage their passwords. Explore options that work for them but also protect critical accounts.

Excepts from AARP Bulletin, September 2019, Amy Nofziger and Mark Fetterhoff.

If you have any questions on estate planning, please call Karen L. Stewart, Attorney and Counselor at (248) 735-0900.

For more information, please see my website, www.customestateplans.com.