Being a caregiver is a role that will fall to more and more baby boomers, a generation that is benefiting from having its parents around longer because of advances in health care. So as we celebrate Father's Day it seems like an appropriate time to discuss some of the important issues that caregiving children need to keep in mind.

A new survey by the Treasury Department finds that one in four Americans define themselves as caregivers, with nearly eight in 10 providing two or more hours a week of help to a parent, friend or loved one.

In addition to providing care, many of those family members also are handling their relatives' finances. That task includes everything from going to the bank to make deposits, to paying bills and managing investments.

So the Treasury figures this is a good time to remind people of the benefits of direct deposits for Social Security checks and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.

It seems a point almost too obvious to make. Yet last year more than 480,000 Social Security checks were reported lost or stolen and had to be reissued. And $64 million in Treasury checks were fraudulently endorsed!

The best way to limit seniors' exposure to financial fraud is to sign up for direct deposit of benefit checks by calling 800-333-1795 or going to the www.GoDirect.org Web site.

If a senior doesn't have a bank account, the Treasury can credit his or her benefits onto a prepaid MasterCard ( MA) debit card, allowing the senior to make purchases or withdraw cash from an ATM up to the amount of the federal benefits that have been deposited on the card.

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