Protecting Your Aging Parents Against Identity Theft Can Be a Full-Time Job

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — As your parents get older, it's just a fact of life that you need to start taking more and more care of them. Oftentimes that means managing their finances. And that means protecting them against identity theft. To boot, more often than not, it's a family member who is committing fraud or identity theft in the name of the older relative. In such a hostile climate for seniors, how can you protect your family members against financial abuse, identity theft and other forms of fraud?

Don't Let One Person Act Alone

Since a major source of identity theft is within the family, Steven J. Weisman, a professor at Bentley University and the proprietor of Scamicide.com, notes that making it harder for one person to steal identity theft is a prudent step. "If you have one or two people assisting grandma, they can assist her, but they can also keep an eye on each other." Weisman says.

It's also important to have a joint power of attorney, says Ingrid Evans of Evans Law Firm, a San Francisco firm specializing in elder abuse and financial fraud. "Put together a trust and have a power of attorney for finances and healt," she says. Appoint two people. They have to bounce their decisions off one another." Evans says that it's important to appoint two different siblings, or a friend and a sibling or a spouse. But don't appoint two spouses. It's a lot easier for a man and wife to collude than two brothers.

Another way to prevent one person from having total control over a senior's finances is through what is sometimes called a "control account." "A lot of times, seniors want to have a joint bank account," says Evans. "But you're basically saying that someone else can access as much of the money as they want." By contrast, a control account means that a person is appointed to manage the account, but that person is not an owner.

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