Original Article: TransAmerica | New Age Of Advice
Types of familiarity scams:
Misappropriation of income
Someone you probably know accesses your Social Security income and uses it for his or her own benefit. This can happen when the perpetrator becomes a “representative payee” of Social Security benefits; it’s similar to an agent under a power of attorney.
- Remember, it’s your money. Never hesitate to ask the payee what he or she is doing with it. If you suspect a representative payee is misusing your benefit, contact the Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General immediately.
Adding name to bank account
A friend or family member suggests it will be easier to help with your day-to-day expenses if you add the person to your bank account. The individual then withdraws money for his or her own benefit.
- Instead, consider giving the person a limited power of attorney, which establishes a legal obligation for the individual to access funds only for your benefit. Your bank may offer alternatives, such as a convenience account, to meet your needs.
Power of attorney abuse
A power of attorney is an important financial planning tool. It gives another person legal authority to act on your behalf. It can also give that person access to virtually all your financial assets.
- When giving someone a power of attorney, be sure to work with an elder law attorney to ensure you grant your agent only the powers you want them to have. Visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys to find a local attorney. Other helpful resources include the American Bar Association and the American Association of Trust, Estate and Elder Law Attorneys.
Transferring title to or re-encumbering real property
A friend or family member may suggest you get your house “out of your name.” For example, many people think that transferring home ownership will help them qualify for Medicaid if they need long-term care.
- You should never transfer real estate — even to a family member — without talking to an attorney who works for you, not the person suggesting the change.
And then there are scams perpetrated by someone who pretends to know you:
After scanning obituaries in the local newspaper, a fraudster calls claiming your deceased spouse owes thousands of dollars in unpaid debt. Financial ruin is threatened unless you act quickly, and a steeply discounted “settlement offer” is proposed.
- Request a written description of the claim with supporting documentation such as dates of service, invoices, and statements. Explain you will respond once you and your attorney have reviewed the documents.
- Many funeral homes offer obituary web pages. Consider posting notices strictly to the funeral home page and avoid public newspaper notices. Also, be careful about the type of personal information you place in an obituary.
“Help me, grandma!”
You receive a late-night call from your “grandchild” claiming he needs money because he’s been arrested while on vacation. The fraudster asks you not to tell his mom and dad.
- If this happens to you, call the mother and father immediately. They’ll help you get to the bottom of the story. It also couldn’t hurt to call the grandchild.