John Bullis: Protect yourself from financial abuse

In a survey by the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, “71 percent of care managers surveyed said financial abuse and/or exploitation of the elderly is a growing problem.”

It seems about 1 in 5 folks age 65 or older have been victimized by financial fraud.

The National Council on Aging said “Over 90 percent of reported elder abuse is committed by the older person’s own family members.”

Some suggestions on how to protect your assets include:

Have your income (retirement pay, etc.) directly deposited into your checking account.

Have an attorney help you create your estate plan, including the Powers of Attorney for financial matters; you might consider requiring two signatures on every check by your agents and have a different person monitor your finances.

Keep your valuables in a safe place; maybe it is time to consider making gifts of selected items now.

Consult with a CPA or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.

If you think you have been taken advantage of, don’t hesitate to contact authorities or your key financial advisors.

Ask your CPA for advice on how much money you can safely withdraw from your retirement accounts.

Get to know your bank or credit union officers and tellers. They can help look out for any suspicious activity related to your accounts.

Consider getting prepaid debit cards for low amounts if you ask others to buy groceries or pay for your other expenses. That will be handy for them and limit the possibility of losses from wrongful actions.

There are many resources available on the internet. The U.S. Department of Justice and the Elder Financial Protection Network are just a couple that might have information and suggestions for you to consider.

There are lots of articles about instances of financial abuse. That does not mean your relatives can not be trusted. Talk with them about your concerns. If that does not seem to help you sleep better at night, then talk with some of your advisors.

Don’t let all this cause you to think everyone is looking for ways to take advantage of you. The goal is to have some basic procedures that help reduce the temptation of wrongful actions.

Did you hear? “One of the hardest decisions to make in life is when to start middle age.”

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.


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