John Bullis: If it sounds too good to be true...

The Federal Trade Commission say scams against the elderly are increasing. You have heard about the telephone calls “your grandchild is in trouble, send money now ...” that are not true.

But it is not only the telephone scams of various types to be concerned about. Family members account for nearly 60 percent of the cases of senior financial exploitation. Friends, neighbors and paid home care aides also can be involved in scams.

Watching out for problems can be done by trusted relative. Tell them where to find your financial information just in case you get seriously ill. The Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters is a basic document you might consider for that trusted relative or close personal friend.

Why not set up the direct deposit of your various income sources, like you have for Social Security? Also ask your agent to help you watch for unusual or unexpected checks or credit card charges. Maybe using a prepaid Visa card or gift cards will help avoid those who would take advantage of an elderly person. The paid caregiver might use the prepaid card for some of the normal supplies that need to be purchased on a regular basis.

Of course, it is best to not give out personal information over the telephone, especially to a caller you don’t know. The bogus sweepstakes offers are most often sent to seniors. One of the things to avoid is answering all those credit card offers that come in the mail. If you don’t need another credit card, just destroy the new offers.

If you use the Internet, don’t fall for those emails that promise big things for you. Those scam artists may even pretend to be with familiar companies or government agencies. When they ask for personal information, just hang up.

IRS does use the telephone when dealing with a taxpayer on some existing matter. But IRS does not call just “out of the blue.” IRS always starts the communications with a letter or notice of some sort.

Maybe you could designate that trusted relative or person to “oversee” your accounts and financial matters. They could help you avoid getting caught in from serious financial fraud attempts. That person could also help decide which items that came in the mail are OK and which are to be disregarded.

Don’t be afraid of life; just be cautious about giving personal information to strangers. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true. I remember a Baptist preacher was sure he won a big prize, but he did not remember ever entering in the Irish sweepstakes. All he had to do was pay for some “shipping, etc. charges.” It was a scam that we helped him stay out of.

Did you hear? “Why is there always so much month left at the end of the money?”

John Bullis is a certified public accountant, personal financial specialist and certified senior adviser who has served Carson City for 45 years. He is founder emeritus of Bullis and Company CPAs.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment