The Wiser Financial Advisor Podcast

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5 Best Ways To Help Protect Seniors

Today’s topic is very important about seniors and the need to protect them from financial abuse. Seniors are targets for scammers of all kinds and too often there’s no one able to help them determine whether they are being scammed or not. In this episode, Josh Nelson, CFP®, gives us some thoughtful and useful ways to help protect seniors and keep them safe from harm. 


Wiser Financial Advisor – Five Best Ways to Protect Seniors

Hi everyone, and welcome to the Wiser Financial advisor show with Josh Nelson where we get real, we get honest, and we get clear about the financial world and your money.

This is Josh Nelson, Certified Financial Planner and founder and CEO of Keystone Financial Services. We love feedback and we’d love it if you would pass it on to me directly at . Also, please stay plugged in with us, get updates on episodes and help us promote the podcast by subscribing to us at Apple Podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcast service. Let the financial fun begin!

In the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon says that seeking after wisdom is the wisest thing we can do, and that really is what we’re after here. The Wiser Financial Advisor is using experience—not only our own but also the experience of others to collectively make better decisions about our money.

Today’s topic of protecting people gets me fired up. I’ll be honest, this is one that makes me mad, in particular when it comes to seniors and the need to protect them from financial abuse. But really, we could all be victims of this stuff no matter our age. We hear story after story about really sad stuff happening, and unfortunately in a lot of cases it’s too late to reclaim what has been lost. If money has already been wired off someplace, oftentimes it goes out of the country and there is very little chance of that money getting recovered. So we’re going to talk about 5 different financial strategies to make sure we’re doing our best to protect the people that we love the most.

Seniors, as you can imagine, are often targeted by bad guys because they tend to be a little bit less aware of some of the advancements in technology and digital security. Seniors tend to have to trust people. They say, “Alright, I’m to the point where I need to trust other people to help me where I may have been able to keep up with this stuff on my own before.” Unfortunately, that leaves people more open to bad guys taking advantage.

You may have heard of things like phishing attempts, meaning somebody is calling you up and trying to get information and collect enough that they’re able to get at your personal finances. Fraudulent lotteries, romance schemes, or even exploitation by deceitful family members or caregivers. Sometimes it’s a low-tech crime by a caregiver or even a close family member that ends up taking money. Sometimes they’re talking the senior into giving them money or helping them out or even changing a will.

Today is about prevention, so let’s dive right into five essential strategies. The first one is to facilitate discussions. What I mean by that is to make sure you’re in open communication with the people you care about, especially seniors. Make sure to keep the conversation going. If this is a regular, ongoing discussion, not only will that help it be less awkward but also it will clue you in if something is going on that’s breaking a pattern you’ve seen in the past. Your radar is probably going to go up and you’ll realize that something is happening that isn’t right. This is something we’ve heard from a lot of clients. Something’s weird based off of Mom or Dad’s normal patterns. So this is about keeping the open communication and creating a supportive environment. One way you can do it is by sharing real life examples. You don’t have to look very far, just look in the news. There are all kinds of news stories about fraud happening.

You could attend community workshops. Elder law attorneys or other people may be facilitating things within the community to help people understand financial scams and how to protect yourself. Could be a phone call from someone who’s pretending to be with the IRS or the police or some other agency. Often, people on the receiving end get scared and think that they’ve got to do something.

In the future, as artificial intelligence becomes more and more available, it’s being said that our actual voices will be able to be duplicated, which makes it even more scary when a scammer is pretending to be a loved one in trouble. So, definitely facilitate discussions and keep open communication. Have your radar up and hopefully have their radar up too, so they will contact you if something seems weird.

#2 is to simplify finances. It’s always good to try to simplify things as much as possible in your financial life. The financial world is complicated enough as it is, so don’t make it more complicated than it needs to be. With your seniors, your elders, it could be helpful to start to consolidate things if they’ve got 10 different banks around town or investment accounts spread all over the place. It’s probably time to get everything at one bank, and one financial institution holding their investments.

At Keystone Financial Services, we have tools that can help. We help our clients stay organized so they can see all their documents in one place. Simplification not only reduces some cognitive load, but it also makes it easier for seniors to track and manage their finances and notice any account activity that looks weird versus if you’ve got 10 different banks, maybe you don’t even notice because it’s so complicated and there’s too much stuff going on. If things are caught earlier, hopefully there can be some remedy for it.

#3 is regular monitoring. This is about watching account activity, watching transactions on debit cards or credit cards or bank accounts or investment accounts. This won’t guarantee prevention, but at least if you see something that doesn’t look right, you’re able to raise your hand to and talk to your financial planner, talk to your banker, talk to your loved ones and say, “Hey, something’s up here.” Most banks, credit unions, investment firms are very good about jumping on this stuff right away if there’s something going on. They are more than willing to jump up and add an experienced voice because they probably have already dealt with this with other clients.

#4 is to secure any legal documents. We’ve talked before about securing things like tax returns and wills or trusts, keeping these things up to date and keeping them stored some place secure, either in paper form or electronic form or both. For our clients, we get copies of their estate documents and put an electronic copy in a secure vault. That way we have access to it and they have access to it. If something happens, we have the backup. Oftentimes the kids are calling us if Mom and Dad have passed away. Having people in the mix who know where everything is, is important, as well as making sure there’s access. This is not just having it in some safe deposit box at some bank that you never use and maybe nobody even knows there’s a lockbox or a safe, or maybe they don’t have access to it. It’s important to keep those legal documents, tax documents someplace safe so the bad guys can’t get to it.

#5 is to exercise caution when sharing information. If someone calls you up and asks for information, it’s probably not your financial planner. Your banker is not going to call you up and ask you for your account number. They’re not going to call and ask you for your login information to your online banking or investment information. Oftentimes seniors don’t realize that and believe that it’s legitimate when it’s a bad actor trying to get access to information. So we never want to give credit card information over the phone, debit card information, checking account numbers, anything that would identify you. Nobody’s going to ask that, especially an institution that you already do business with, even if they claim to be an IRS agent or something scary. That is a very common tactic among scammers, to say they need to verify your identity.

You can empower seniors by letting them know about this stuff. Tell them stories, and if you don’t know any personal stories, Google it. That will help them at least recognize when something isn’t right and it’s time to just hang up. Let’s say you get a phone call from the bank or your financial planner or the IRS. Hang up, and you can look up the real phone number, then contact them directly and say, “I just got a phone call from somebody claiming to be with the IRS,” (or whatever the claim may be). You can find out if it’s legitimate or not. But they’re not going to call you and ask for information anyway. Just know that is not normal. So this is just being aware that there are bad actors out there posing as something they are not. If someone is dating online, it often happens that they end up revealing information. We’ve seen that, so be very, very careful. Be vigilant because that is the only thing between you and the bad guys.

Hopefully these points will help enhance the security around your finances and help ensure that your golden years and their golden years are marked by peace and security.

One other tip I always recommend is to have some kind of protection with regard to your information. There are companies like LifeLock. This is not an advertisement for LifeLock, but that’s probably the most well-known name. There are other ones out there as well. I certainly advise you to compare them and see what’s best for you. Companies like that are watching your activity, monitoring and making sure that you’re aware very quickly if someone goes out and tries to open a credit card in your name or applies for a mortgage, things like that.

Also, every year get a free credit report from all of the credit agencies. The main ones are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Each one of them are required to give each of us a free copy of our credit report every year. So that is also a good idea to go out and check your credit report now and again to make sure that all the activity is correct, and there isn’t some fictitious or incorrect medical bill or something like that sitting on your report.

You can also put a freeze on your credit. So if you know that you’re not going to be applying for anything, good for you. Congratulations. I recommend that you put a freeze on your credit. You can do that with each one of those three credit reporting agencies. They can be lifted later on, if you decide to take out a mortgage or something like that. But a freeze basically guarantees that nobody can use your credit report. Most financial institutions will not do a loan or any other kind of debt if they can’t pull a credit report.

That is all for today’s episode of the Wiser Financial Advisor podcast. Have a wonderful week and God bless.

The opinions expressed in the Wiser Financial Advisor show with host Josh Nelson are for general information only, and are not intended to provide specific information or recommendations for any individual. To determine what may be appropriate for you, consult your attorney, accountant, financial or tax advisor prior to investing. Investment advisory services offered through Keystone Financial Services, an SEC registered investment advisor.