A few years back we received a phone call from a man whom we had never met and had never heard about. He claimed to be the power of attorney for a client of ours. We had all of her legal documents, and he was on none of them. Unfortunately, this lady did not have any family and the only contact we had on file was the previous power of attorney. We verified the new information with this previous power of attorney. She stated it was correct and that she had revised her documents just before Alzheimer’s took over her mind completely. Afterward, I went to her home, which was now on the market to be sold and met with her new power of attorney and the lady who was previously named as her power of attorney. We went through her needs and devised a plan to which he could follow. The previous POA that met with us kindly removed herself from any future obligations. She felt that this man, which was a fellow church goer, would be perfectly capable and responsible. He was capable, but when requests started pouring in for over twenty thousand dollars, we became leery. After all, she had long-term care insurance that was paying for her facility and care. Her monthly requests throughout the time we worked with her were never more than five thousand dollars. So, we started asking for receipts or other evidence of how this money was being spent and he became angry with our requests. After his refusal, we began our protocol for elder abuse. But before anything could be done, the accounts we were managing were being moved…and come to find out to his brother…
Elder abuse is real. Research estimates as high as five million elderly people are abused each year. Worse is the fact that it is estimated only one in fourteen of abuse cases are actually reported.1. And, worse than that, is the fact that two-thirds of elder abuse is committed by family members, friends, or someone else who is a trusted individual. 2.
What can you do? First, educate yourself. The National Council on Aging has a great website to start with. Research the following:
#1….How does elder abuse happen—scams (telephone, emails, internet, mail, door to door salesmen), identity theft, tax theft, annuity fraud, con artists, and last, but not least— by the people closest to you through means of setting up powers of attorney, joint bank accounts, use of credit cards, debit cards, overbilling, threats.
#2…Build awareness of your parent’s situation: gain a general knowledge of account values, locations of these accounts, credit cards and shop accounts, get to know the named persons in their wills, powers of attorney and other designated contacts, trusted advisors and other professionals that provide services to them, workers around their home and caregivers.
Second, go to work. Begin setting up monitoring systems and other automatic protections for them. Here is a start:
- Update their computer systems and electronic devices
- Install Virus Protection
- Create a system to safely manage passwords
- Make sure their Wi-Fi is password protected
- Sign up for credit monitoring
- Consider a credit freeze
- Sign up for text alerts when spending occurs on their credit cards
- Download a call blocking app on their phone
- Ensure they have a voicemail service on their phone and that they create the habit of letting unknown numbers go straight to voicemail
- Become a duplicate receiver of any bank, investment, or other financial statements
- Ensure you are named as a trusted contact with their financial institutions
- Take the time to meet their trusted advisors with them
Last, but certainly not least, be leery and be present. As your parents get older, the higher their chances are to be victimized—especially if they become isolated or their health fails. Perpetrators are more likely to stay away if they know you are actively involved in your parent’s life and finances.
We talk a lot about the importance of culture in our business and one of the named pieces of this is that we do what needs to be done when it needs to be done. I want to challenge you to do that very thing concerning this grave matter. If something needs to be done to protect your parents, do it. Don’t wait. I know - Life is busy. It may even be crazy, but they need you….and someday, that will be you.