What You Need to Know About the Grandparent Scam

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the agency received more than 400,000 complaints in 2016 from consumers reporting they were victims of impersonation scams. One of the most common is called the “Grandparent Scam,” which uses impersonation tactics to deliberately target and exploit older Americans.
 
To commit this crime, fraudsters call claiming to be a family member in serious trouble and in need of money immediately. The scammer might say he is stranded or has been mugged and call in the middle of the night to add to the urgency and confusion. Once the money is sent, the victim later finds out that it wasn’t their grandchild they were helping, it was a criminal.  
 
“Fraudsters are preying on seniors at an alarming rate,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Before you make a move that might cost you thousands, it’s extremely important that you confirm who you’re actually speaking with before you act, because chances are it’s not your grandson Johnny you’re on the phone with, it’s a scammer.” 
 
Here are four tips to help seniors avoid being victims of the grandparent scam:

 

  • Confirm the caller. Fraudsters are using social networking sites to gain the personal information of friends and relatives to carry out their crimes. Verify the caller by calling them back on a known number or consult a trusted family member before acting on any request.
     
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Fraudsters want to execute their crimes quickly. In this type of scam, they count on fear and your concern for your loved one to make you act before you think. The more questions you ask the more inclined they will be to ditch the scam if they suspect you’re on to them.
     
  • Never give personal information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
     
  • Never rush into a financial decision and trust your instincts.  Don’t be fooled—if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. Feel free to say no and get more information before you send money to someone.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that elder financial exploitation is the most popular form of abuse perpetuated against older Americans, with annual losses ranging from $2.9 billion to $36.48 billion. 

6 Financial Tips for Service Members and Their Families

Miliary famlies face unique financial challenges, particularly when a service member is deployed.  below has highlighted six financial tips to help military families reduce the stress of managing money.
 
“Finances are often identified by service members and their families as one of their most significant stressors – even more than deployments and personal relationships,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “Financial concerns at home make it extremely difficult for service members to focus on the mission at hand. Planning ahead as much as possible is key for the millions of military families who face unique financial challenges like deployments and relocations.” 
 

 

  • Contribute automatically to a Thrift Savings Plan. Military members have access to the Federal Thrift Savings Program, which offers the lowest-cost retirement savings plan available. Have automatic contributions withdrawn from your paycheck. 
     
  • Plan for deployment. Before deployment, have a family conversation about managing the household budget. Consider granting power of attorney to your spouse, should they need to make any urgent financial decisions while you are gone. Check with your bank to see if they have pre-printed forms you can use for bank accounts. Military personnel also receive additional funds while deployed. Decide on the best use for that extra cash, whether it is paying off debt or increasing Thrift Savings Plan contributions. 
     
  • Meet with your banker before active duty. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act offers all military personnel entering active duty a variety of financial protections. The SCRA covers issues ranging from interest rate reductions to limits on debt accrual. Ask your banker about the key provisions of this law and how they can help you.  
     
  • Set up automatic bill pay. Whether you’re stationed stateside or overseas, automatic bill pay will give you and your family one less thing to worry about each month. It can be particularly helpful during deployments in regions where internet access is unreliable and mobile banking isn’t an option.
     
  • Consider housing options. With mortgage rates at notably low levels, homeownership may seem like a no-brainer. However, service members should consider their options. Frequent relocations and deployments can make owning a home challenging and expensive. Renting may be a smart option for short-term assignments. Decide what’s best for your family and your finances. 
     
  • Consult a financial advisor. Schedule a visit at a Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) office, located in your military and family support centers. They offer free one-on-one counseling, as well as other financial education resources.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also provides tips and resources for service members at consumer http://finance.gov/servicemembers

8 Ways to Protect Your Data Online

Cyber thieves are using social media profiles to gather personal information and use it to commit fraud.  It’s extremely important that consumers limit the amount of information they share online and stay away from using easily retrieved information — such as birthdates, pet’s names or school mascots — as answers to security questions.
 
Phenix-Girard is offering the following tips to help consumers safeguard their information online:
 

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
     
  • Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. 
     
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.  
      • Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
     
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
     
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
     
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Understanding Your Role as a Financial Caregiver

According to the Caregiver Action Network, more than 90 million Americans care for a loved one living with a disability, disease or experiencing reduced financial capability as a result of aging. Financial caregivers play an important role in ensuring that all finances — from routine to complex — are managed wisely, helping their loved ones maintain the best quality of life possible. 
 
Financial caregivers play a major part in helping their loved ones live stable and viable lives. It’s extremely important that caregivers understand their role in managing day-to-day finances and planning for future expenses to ensure that all their loved ones’ needs are met.
 
We offer the following tips to help individuals understand their role as financial caregivers:

 

  • Learn the rights and restrictions that apply to your role. Financial caregivers, such as those with a power of attorney, trustees, and federal benefits fiduciaries, are fiduciaries with a duty to act and make decisions on their loved one’s behalf. Learn the legal responsibilities of your assigned authority in order to better execute your role. 
     
  • Manage money and other assets wisely. Financial caregivers may be in charge of daily, unexpected and future expenses their loved one may incur. Especially if the beneficiary has a fixed income or limited finances, it is extremely important that caregivers minimize unnecessary costs and budget accordingly to ensure that all money is properly allocated. 
     
  • Recognize danger signs. Seniors have become major targets for financial abuse and fraud. Make sure to stay alert to signs of scams or identity theft that may put your loved one’s assets in peril. 
     
  • Keep careful records. When acting as a financial agent, proper documentation is not only encouraged but required. Make sure you keep well-organized financial records, including up-to date lists of assets and debts and a streamline of all financial transactions.
     
  • Stay informed. Monitor changes in financial status of the beneficiary and take appropriate action, as needed. Also, be sure to stay up to date on changes in the laws affecting seniors. 
     
  • Seek professional advice. Consult a banker or other professional advisors when you’re not sure what to do. 
In addition, the Foundation is providing an explanation of the various roles and responsibilities of three types of financial caregivers.
 
Understanding your role as a power of attorney.
POA is designated by your loved one and gives you the authority to act and make decisions on their behalf, including managing and having access to their bank and other financial accounts. Authority continues if loved one becomes incapacitated and ends when power is revoked or your loved one dies.
 
Understanding your role as a trustee.
Authority is given once you are named as trustee or co-trustee of a revocable living trust. As a trustee your authority applies only to the property noted in the trust, authorizing you to protect, manage and distribute the trust’s assets as directed in the trust document. Authority continues after the death of the trust creator or grantor.
 
Understanding your role as a federal benefits fiduciary.
A federal benefits fiduciary is appointed to accept and delegate federal government benefit payments, such as Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits, in the beneficiary’s best interest. Funds for the beneficiary are received through an account set up solely for this purpose. As a representative payee for Social Security benefits or a VA fiduciary for VA benefits, you are required to keep detailed records of all transactions related to the beneficiary and file annual reports detailing how benefits were used.
 
The Caregiver Action Network (the National Family Caregivers Association) began promoting national recognition of family caregivers in 1994. President Clinton signed the first NFC Month Presidential Proclamation in 1997 and every president since has followed suit by issuing an annual proclamation recognizing and honoring family caregivers each November.

For more information on the role of financial caregivers, visit www.caregiveraction.org.