During this time of shelter-in-place and social distancing, some of us aren’t able to be as physically connected with our elderly parents as we usually might be. Many of my friends haven’t been able to visit their folks because either they live in a home with others, or my friends don’t want to cause unnecessary exposure. Even if we can’t meet in person with our parents, it is more important than ever to be on top of their finances and to keep them safe from scammers. Unfortunately, elderly people are extremely vulnerable to being victimized during times like these.
Check Financial Accounts
If your one of the "sandwich generation" and have parents that are very elderly and need help, hopefully, you or someone you trust has access to their bank and financial accounts. It is important to check on their account balances regularly to make sure there haven’t been any unexplained debits. Make sure deposits such as Social Security or any other monthly annuity credit are current.
If you do visit your parents, make sure things like checkbooks or credit cards are safely put away. You may even want to keep those with you for safekeeping if there isn’t a need for your parents to have them.
Safeguard Against Phone Scams
Make sure you explain to any elderly people you care for that during this time, they need to be aware of phony phone calls from people asking for personal information or even money. It’s a common scam, and elderly people can easily fall for it. Tell your parents that if someone calls asking for personal information or money, they should just hang up.
Have your parents’ phone set up to identify and state the name of who is calling. This way they only answer the phone if it’s someone they know. The rest of the calls will go to voicemail, which you can check, and return any important calls for them. You can add their phone number to the Do Not Call registry which helps cut down on calls in general.
Set Up a Medical Alert
This may also be a good time to set up some type of medical alert system if you don’t already have one. This will allow your parent to wear a device that will connect them to emergency services by pressing a button. I know several people for whom this has been a lifesaver.
Check Credit Reports
Lastly, it might be worth it to order your parents’ credit report. This way you can see if there has been any suspicious activity. You can receive a free copy from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year.
Get your copies by calling 1-877-322-8228 or by going to AnnualCreditReport.com and downloading the reports. You can also get copies of your own credit reports while you are at it. If you notice anything that is suspicious, report it immediately. If there is an error, you can dispute it.
Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. She is a regular contributor to The Street’s Retirement Daily. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday, and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to The Today Show and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her money-saving tips on Facebook: Jeanette Pavini: Better Ways to Save Community or go to JeanettePavini.com.