One of the more difficult things in life is when you have to acknowledge that your relationship with your parents takes a twist and you become the caregiver. It can be overwhelming, both emotionally and practically, as often this occurs when caring for children of your own (known as the “Sandwich Generation”). The stress of additional responsibility can cause one to adopt a “take charge” stance and unilaterally make decisions. This usually backfires. Your parents are not your children and deserve respect and empathy. Perhaps a better way to look at this new relationship is being a supportive resource for them. Share education, alternatives, and a willingness to listen.
Along those lines, here are a few suggestions to help ensure their financial safety. Elder fraud is rampant in the US and unfortunately, we have seen a few incidences of it in our client base. In 2020, there were more than360,000 cases of elder care fraud reported to authorities resulting in $4.8 billion of losses. This is the tip of the iceberg as it is estimated that cases of elder fraud are vastly underreported.1
- Maintain regular contact with your parents and know the caregivers and friends in their lives. This is not only important for their mental well-being; a significant amount of fraud activity comes from people within your loved one’s circle of associates.
- Drop in unexpectedly for visits if they live in a care facility. Do not leave valuable items, such as jewelry or financial statements, in their apartment if they live in a place where people are in and out on a frequent basis.
- When hiring caregivers for your parents, conduct a careful screening, including personal references. Get to know them as you would a new friend of your parents. Either in person, or by FaceTime, have regularly scheduled check ins to ensure medications are being taken, grooming needs are met, and they are properly fed and hydrated. Your attention to their care augments the level of care they will receive.
- Designate trusted power of attorney(s) well in advance of incapacity. Use an attorney to customize to their personal preferences. Some parents may be willing to give up total control while others may just want you to have control when they become incapacitated. Click here for more information about Power of Attorneys.
- Use trusted contacts for bank and credit card accounts. This enables you, or a trusted friend/advisor, to view and monitor these accounts for potential fraud without granting transactional privileges.
- Consider the use of an antifraud service, such as EverSafe or LifeLock, to identify suspicious activity on financial accounts.
- Notice the amount of junk mail and unsolicited “gifts” that arrive in the mail. A large volume indicates your loved one is on multiple mailing lists which are often accessed by scammers. Keep a watchful eye for charitable donations as one misleading phone call can lead to continuous auto debits. Click here for tips on removing their names from these lists.
While these are only a few suggestions to help keep your loved ones safe, above all, trust your gut. If something feels off, do not hesitate to investigate.
1 January 2022 analysis conducted by Comparitech, a cybersecurity research company.