Q: With all of the scams out there today, I’m afraid to give away any personal information. I don’t know who to trust. How do I know when someone is trying to take advantage of me?
Answer: Although anyone can be the target of a scam, older adults 50+ are more likely to be the victims of fraud or identity theft.
The reasons for this could be numerous. Many of today’s elderly were brought up to be more positive and trusting of one another, which may make them an easier target. Often, an elder who doesn’t want to be viewed as helpless by their family or caretakers will keep quiet about things that trouble them. These things and other circumstances put older adults in our community at risk, and while the government can do some things to enforce laws against scammers, protecting our personal information often comes down to our own vigilance. Here are some general tips to protect you or an elderly loved one:
1. Be informed about common scams, like landline phone scams. One great resource is StopFraud.gov, a website operated by the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force with tips and information for elders and their caregivers.
2. Keep an eye on financial activity. If you or your loved one are online, many email scams involve sending money or providing credit card information, so keeping tabs on your relative’s financials can help you spot any potential fraud as it happens. Operate by the rule, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
3. Sign up for identity fraud theft protection, which provides real-time monitoring of financials and makes restoration after a theft attempt much less of a panic.
4. Make sure caregivers are trustworthy. Unfortunately, identity theft is not always committed by strangers. If you are the adult child of a senior who needs care, be on the lookout for suspicious behavior and make sure documents and other items containing personal and financial information are locked away where they cannot be easily accessed.
One way to protect yourself or a loved one from predators is to learn the latest tricks that are being used to steal your money. Fraud and Identity Theft: Protecting Yourself from Con Artists is a free seminar being hosted by the public library in Clemmons. The class will be taught by Glenn Kirk of Summit Credit Union. He is a frequent presenter of seminars for businesses and associations all across North Carolina. He has also appeared on WFMY TV as a resource for banking and financial items of interest.
In this class, you will learn how to protect your Social Security card and your identity from being stolen. Other topics covered include email fraud and phone scams, recovering from ID theft, and what to do when your bank or the IRS calls. The class will be held in the Clemmons library auditorium on April 23 at 3:30 p.m., and is part of Money Smart Week at the library. The same class is being held at the Kernersville Branch Library on April 24 at 2 p.m.
Q: How much should I really be preparing for end-of-life expenses?
Answer: We plan for so many things in our life, from college to having kids. Something we don’t plan for, or just don’t want to think about, is the care that we may need later in life.
Every adult is at risk of being unable to make health care decisions. Meaningful conversations with your loved ones about what you value in your personal health care will lead to higher quality care and much less stress for your family when a health care crisis arises.
April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD). Each year, this day focuses on the education and awareness of health care decision planning. NHDD is a great time to think about creating your own advance health care plan. An advance health care directive is the document that helps an adult name someone to make health care decisions when the person cannot do so. In addition to creating planning documents, this is a good time to think and talk about the different kinds of health care and treatment one wants and does not want.
The Hospice Care Center provides Advance Care Planning Workshops every Tuesday at different locations that serve 13 counties, providing the opportunity to learn about the living will and health care power of attorney. In Winston-Salem, that workshop takes place on the first Tuesday of every month at 1 p.m. in the Hospice & Palliative Care Center. You can also schedule a walk-in consultation or get your questions answered by calling 336-768-6157, ext. 1622 or 704-637-7645. While donations are welcome, these services are provided at no cost to you.
The National Center on Law and Elder Rights (NCLER) provides free case consultation assistance for attorneys and professionals seeking more information to help older adults. Topics include: Advance Planning, Elder Abuse, Guardianship, Health/LTSS, Economic Security, Supported Decision-Making, Consumer Protection, and Housing. Please contact ConsultNCLER@acl.hhs.gov for assistance.