It’s no secret that the elderly are a favorite target of scam artists. As an Orange County elder law attorney, I have seen it happen too often. Criminals will troll the internet and phone lists looking for seniors that are easy to prey upon due to an illness, disability, or cognitive impairment. Another reason scam artists love to attack seniors is the expectation that they have accumulated wealth over the course of their lifetime.  They anticipate a huge payday whenever a senior is involved.

Whether it is an overseas predator thousands of miles away, or an unscrupulous home care provider, there are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself and those you love from financial scams.  When potential predators know that there are people watching out for the elderly person, they are much less likely to act due to fear of criminal prosecution. Here are some steps seniors and their family members can take to prevent financial abuse.

  1. Arrange for account oversight

Select someone that will help the senior manage their accounts and watch out for unusual activity, like large checks or large ATM withdraws. Having extra eyes on the senior’s bank statements or other transactions can help heed off fraudulent activity.

Sometimes it can help to add an adult child as a co-owner of certain accounts, so that they have the joint ability to write checks, make investment decisions, and take action to protect funds in those accounts. It also means the funds in those accounts can bypass probate. Trust is obviously a huge factor here, considering the co-owner will have full access to the senior’s money.  And, there are other risks involved with joint ownership that should prompt you to speak with an Orange County elder law attorney before going down this road.  In many cases, creating a Power of Attorney is a safer solution that will allow someone to manage the senior’s money without having actual “ownership” of the accounts in question.

  1. Create a living trust

It’s often a wise choice for a senior to move their assets into a living trust.  This legal tool protects the senior’s money and property, and allows someone that the senior trusts (the trustee) to manage the assets on the senior’s behalf whenever necessary.  However, unlike joint accounts, it does NOT give the trustee co-ownership of the senior’s funds or assets. And, it allows greater control in passing down the assets in the trust that the senior would not be afforded with under joint tenancy.  For example, if the senior has four children but only one is named as co-owner the senior’s accounts, at the time of their death, the co-owner becomes the sole owner of those funds and they are not required to share the inheritance with the other kids.  However, if the senior creates a trust, he or she retains oversight while alive, but also gets to choose how to distribute the funds after death.

  1. Watch the Mail and Caller Id

Is there a certain “charity” or “non-profit” that keeps contacting your elderly loved one by mail? Or are you noticing that a strange number keeps popping up on the caller ID? It’s possible the person or company behind these attempts are scam artists that are working to build a “friendship” with your older loved one in order to solicit donations by mail or over the phone.  By keeping an eye on such solicitations, you may be able to uncover a plot to defraud your elderly loved one of money before it’s too late.

  1. Use a limited credit card

Utilize any credit monitoring services offered by the senior’s credit card companies, and where possible, limit the amount the senior can spend by using pre-paid cards or spending caps.

  1. Consult with an Orange County elder law attorney

An Orange County elder law attorney can help you create a plan to legally establish who can help the senior with financial management, in addition to creating tools such as living trusts to help keep your loved one’s nest egg safe.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely stop financial abuse. But, by following these steps, you can definitely make yourself and your family less of a target. If you are ready to build this wall of protection around your loved one’s finances, contact Orange County elder attorneys at (949) 260-1400 to set up a consultation.