We hear a lot these days about data breaches and theft of personal and financial information. It’s serious business. Identity theft and fraud are becoming all too commonplace.
As we age, the issues and risks don’t go away, but they do change.
Here are four simple suggestions to help protect yourself and your loved ones from significant heartache and loss in the later years.
- Have a Power of Attorney document. Review the contents regularly and update the document as needed.
Wondering who to name as your power of attorney? Name the person or persons who will diligently and conscientiously carry out your legal, financial and medical wishes. Make sure your wishes are clearly stated and known.
Consider: The person who will best be able to handle legal or financial matters on your behalf may, or may not be the best person to speak on your behalf about medical matters. Be very careful about who you choose, and if you do not have trusted people in your life, ask your attorney for suggestions.
Here’s more information from the Kansas Bar Association: Durable Power of Attorney – FAQ
- Simplify your finances and bill paying.
Wondering why? With simplified finances, in the event of death or disability, your spouse or Power of Attorney can quickly and easily step in. Keep necessary information up to date, but deal with passwords and sensitive account information on a “need to know” basis only.
Keeping a list by your computer can be very easy but is just plain risky.
Consider: When a spouse or parent is diagnosed with a terminal or progressive illness or dementia, the problem of theft and fraud can intensify rather than go away. During an already stressful time, having a credit card number stolen or a fraudulent credit account opened can be expensive and time-consuming to deal with. Finances that have been simplified prior to such a diagnosis provide not only an easier transition of care, but fewer accounts and credit cards that could be targeted for fraud.
Here are two ways to lower the risk of fraud:
- Close all unnecessary accounts, both joint and individual.
Maintain only necessary accounts and monitor them regularly.
Consider: Is it really necessary for a person with dementia to have three credit card accounts if they are unable to make their own purchases? Consult the bank or your financial planner if you are unsure how best to consolidate accounts.
- Place a credit freeze (also known as a security freeze) with the three credit reporting agencies- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report, which is the process for obtaining new credit. In the event a credit report is necessary, it is simple to contact the credit reporting agency used by the potential creditor to have them temporarily lift the freeze.
More information is available from Federal Trade Commission and each credit reporting agency. Here’s a link to the Federal Trade Commission: Credit Freeze FAQ
In these days of complex financial affairs, online banking and purchasing and long distant care giving and support; keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe is more than putting good locks on the doors and leaving the light on.
It means being aware and proactive to prevent fraud and loss.