Once you have a clearer picture of your parents' financial circumstances, you can better help them protect themselves against scams. That's right, scams — of all sorts:
Tax refund-anticipation loans, where scammers charge high fees and then don't deliver the tax refund in a timely manner.
Grandparent scams, in which the "grandchild" calls asking for money because of an "emergency"
Reverse mortgages, where those whose financial situation doesn't call for such a borrowing tool, are convinced to commit to one on with unfavorable terms.
Customer survey scams, in which a person claiming to represent a reputable company says the firm will pay you for participating in the survey, and then asks you for your credit card and pin number so that the company can "credit your account"
Pet scams, where swindlers target would-be pet owners out of money targeted for adoption of animals from foreign countries
Rent-to-own contracts, stating that one missed payment requires your loved ones to forfeit all their previous payments and to surrender all the rented goods
"Free lunch" scams, which offer people free lunches to listen to bogus investment pitches dished out by a high-pressure salesperson.
These are all in addition to the unsavory litany of familiar scams, such as predatory lending, phishing, "credit repair" services, numerous fundraising letters from Africa, and home-repair fraud.
When the economy is doing poorly, scammers become more imaginative in developing techniques to dupe people out of their money. Older adults are too often the target for con artists, and many of the scams listed above can result in an immediate, dramatic, and permanent loss of money.
Both caregivers and their loved ones need to share responsibility in keeping abreast of the latest scams and reporting them when they are targeted.
Scamming generates untold headaches for consumers and their caregivers alike. It can be difficult to guard against, particularly if you respect the dignity and independence of those whom you love. It is a two-way street, and your caregiving role in preventing scams is as important now as it ever has been.
So there you have it, a multipronged approach: Know the location of your loved ones' important documents, evaluate their financial situation, and then work to protect them against scams. By following these steps, you are doing your part to protect the interests of your family members, so that they can live lives that are not threatened by those who would take rather than give.