The Senior Safe Act is Now Law – Helping to Protect Elders from Financial Abuse

As part of a larger financial overhaul bill, on May 24, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Senior Safe Act.  While much of the reporting on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act was about the Dodd-Frank revisions, the law incorporated most of the original provisions of the Senior Safe Act, a law geared toward protecting the elderly against financial abuse.

The Senior Safe Act

The Senior Safe Act allows financial institutions and its employees to report elderly financial abuse without  fear of privacy law violations.  Individuals and companies that properly train employees to recognize signs of elder financial abuse are immune from liability for reporting suspected abuse, as long as the reporting was done in good faith and done with reasonable care.  The financial institutions include credit unions, banks, brokerage firms and insurance companies.

Protecting the Elderly from Financial Abuse

Banks and other financial institutions are on the front lines when witnessing possible financial abuse. Until last week, individuals who witnessed elder exploitation risked being in violation of federal and state privacy laws if the suspected abuse was reported. Watching the abuse and not being able to say anything to authorities put these individuals and their employer in a tough spot. With this new law, the elderly can be better protected by financial services industry employees.

The elderly lose between $3 billion and $36 billion per year to financial fraud, according to Consumer Reports in 2015. The amount depends on the survey conducted. While the range varies between the different surveys, there is no dispute that the elderly are vulnerable to friends, family and strangers when it comes to their money. In another study, Allianz reported in 2016 that the average financial loss to elderly victims was $36,000.00, and the numbers will grow with the aging baby boomer population.

Something must be done about this unspeakable crime plaguing our elderly. The Senior Safe Act is a step in the right direction. Giving individuals and their employers who are closest to an elder person’s money the ability to speak out when wrongdoing is suspected is a relief, but more needs to be done to protect our elderly.

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Elder Scam #7 – Stranger at a Funeral

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

A “Friend” of the Deceased

A stranger scours through the local obituaries for upcoming funeral services. The stranger shows up at the viewing or the funeral service telling the family that he/she was a friend of the deceased. During the conversation, the stranger tells the family that the deceased owes them money and shows them a falsified I.O.U. or Promissory Note. The grieving family, not knowing any better and not in a right frame of mind, pays the stranger.

Elders and their family members should be leery of those that try to capitalize right after a loved one dies. Politely ask them to contact you the following month to settle any debts of the deceased. Typically, if it is a legitimate debt, you will be contacted. But most often, the stranger will not try to contact you again.

 

 

Elder Scam #6 – Health Insurance Information Theft

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly widow went to the local mall for a free health screening test. At the mall, she was asked for her insurance cards and asked to sign a blank insurance claim form. Without even thinking about the fact that a free health care check would not require any type of insurance information, she gave them her insurance card and signed a blank claim form.

A couple months later, she opened a bill from her health insurance company with several charges for services she never received. The total amount she owed the insurance company was over $8,000.00. Unlike a credit card company who can reverse the charges for purchases not made, the health care company held her liable even though she never received the services. She never opened the first couple of bills and by the time she opened it, the appeals period was over to contest the charges. She spent over a third of the $8,000.00 on attorneys trying to help her reverse the charges.

Elders should be extremely careful with their health insurance information. Do not give the information to strangers and never to people working at the free health screening sites, even if it is conducted at a retirement community. Free is free. Also, seniors need to review their health insurance charges as soon as they get a bill before the appeals period end.

 

Elder Scam #4 – The Cleaning Lady

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly woman lives alone and all of her children live outside of the city. The woman needs help and hires someone to come in and clean her house. The cleaning person soon realizes that the woman’s family does not come around very much and realizes the elderly woman is lonely. The cleaning person then gains the confidence of the woman. After about six months, the cleaning woman and the elderly woman become friends. They go out to eat together, go to the casino together and have what the elderly woman believes is a true friendship. The elderly woman begins trusting the cleaning lady with her personal information such as Social Security Number, credit card numbers and bank accounts because she truly believes they are friends. All the while, the cleaning woman is using the elderly woman’s personal information to obtain new credit cards and charge the cards to the max. By the time the elderly woman finds out about it, the cleaning woman stops coming around and the elderly woman can no longer get a hold of her. Phone is disconnected. The elderly woman is left with a pile of bills from credit card companies and her savings account has been depleted to nothing.

Be careful of allowing the elderly to be the subject of undue influence by a stranger, friend or relative. Once the undue influence begins, it is hard to convince an elderly person that they are being used by someone with ulterior motives.

Elderly Scam #2 – Pay the IRS with Gift Cards

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of.

An elderly person received a voice mail message from the “IRS.” When she called the telephone number back, the “IRS Agent” gave his name and badge number. He told the elderly person that she owed $8,000 in tax money for the prior two years and if she didn’t pay immediately, then the “IRS Agent” would send the local police to her house to arrest her and to seize her property. She was instructed to go to the bank and withdraw $8,000 and then go to a local retail store to buy $8,000 in gift cards. The woman complied. The “IRS Agent” had her read off the gift card numbers and put her on hold while he obtained a confirmation number. After 30 minutes, he came back on the line and said she owed $12,000 more. She went back to the bank, and thank goodness for an astute bank teller, who told her it was a scam and to call the police. Unfortunately, when the police called the gift card company to see if funds remained on the gift cards, there was no money left on the cards.

The suspects used a phone app that made it look like the IRS was calling. Please know that the IRS does not contact you by telephone. The IRS deals with a taxpayer by mail. You can call the IRS, but they do not call you.

Elderly Scam #1 – The Phone Call from the IRS

Scamming the elderly out of their money is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. In an effort to make people – parents, children, grandchildren, siblings – more aware of the devious attempts by strangers, friends and relatives to prey on the elderly, I plan to post all of the scams I become aware of. Here’s one going around about the IRS:

An elderly person receives a phone call from the “Internal Revenue Service” and identifies himself or herself and even gives a badge number. This “IRS Agent” tells the elderly person that they accidently sent out a check and that the person needs to give the money back to the “IRS” right away. Wiring instructions are provided and the person is given a certain amount of time to send the money or else face criminal penalties. The elderly person dutifully wires the “IRS” the money.

Please know that the IRS does not contact you by telephone. The IRS deals with a taxpayer by mail. You can call the IRS, but they do not call you.

2 Main Reasons to Keep the Land Line Telephone

Americans are ditching their landlines in favor of cable phone service (voice over internet protocol) or cell phones. But elderly people may want to consider the real benefits to having a landline in their home or apartment. Here are the two main reasons:

 

Reception

1. The reception sounds better on a home phone. No doubt about it – home phones are much clearer and rarely, if ever, drop calls. If you have a hearing loss condition or live in a noisy household, a landline doesn’t have the echo chamber that most cell phones have.

Emergencies

2.  In case of an emergency, a landline is connected to your address. Even if you live in an apartment, the landline allows the 911 operator to know exactly which apartment number the emergency call is coming from. Calling 911 on a cell phone and not being able to give them your exact location is dangerous, because cell phones rely on towers and GPS for a person’s location. An emergency crew is in a hit or miss situation if you call on a cell phone and you can’t talk.

Granted, there is a cost to having a landline in addition to a cell phone. But the comforting benefit of a landline is knowing that people can actually hear you and, in case of an emergency, 911 will be much quicker to respond to your home.

You Turned 50. Did You Get Your AARP Letter Yet?

Turning 50 is Depressing Enough

Nothing is as depressing as turning 50 and getting a letter from AARP in the mail wanting you to join their association. Yes, I said it, AARP. You know, the American Association of Retired People who focus on the elderly. They apparently have the list of everyone’s birthday and send out membership letters like clockwork within days of your 50th. The campaign must work because the association has about 37 million members. But when I got my letter, it depressed me like nothing else. I didn’t feel old and was kind of insulted I got the letter. A dagger to the heart. The first vestige that I will now be viewed in a different category. The stark reality that I was now at the upper end of the 25-54 advertising demographic. Soon, no one would care or think I was relevant from an advertising and marketing standpoint.

Is AARP Really Worth It?

However, after a few promotional offers came in the mail, it was time I began really looking into what the membership offered. I joined. Joining AARP does have benefits to people over 50. Discounts on hotels, insurance and restaurants. However, the discounts aren’t really any better than if you get a AAA discount or a credit card discount on hotels and restaurants. The insurance is good. My mother has it and likes it. AARP also advocates for the elderly, which can be a good thing because they can be the collective voice for the elderly.

Well, after a couple of years, I let my membership lapse because it didn’t seem like the AARP discounts were any better than other discounts I already had. AARP keeps trying to get me back, though. I get monthly letters from them wanting me to rejoin. The frequency by which the letters come are really bothersome. If AARP would spend its money offering deeper discounts and better membership benefits rather spending it on postage for monthly mailers, I may be enticed to re-join. Until then, the offers just go into the shredder.

Shorts, Black Socks and Dress Shoes

Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, the one dress style that I hated the most was when my dad or his male friends, or even our male neighbors, would mow the lawn or do yard work wearing shorts, black socks and black dress shoes. I could never understand the fashion statement and I would cringe when I saw my dad wearing such an outfit. He wasn’t a nerd or anything, but boy when I saw him dressed like that, I just wanted to hide from the embarrassment of it all. Well, fast forward to 2018. A few months ago, my husband comes out of the bedroom because he’s going to mow the lawn and do some yard work. What is he wearing? You guessed it. Shorts, black socks and black shoes. My first thought was “I married my dad.” I of course shrieked with disdain and said “You’re not going out in public dressed like that are you?” He said “Of course I am.” I was just as embarrassed a few months ago as I was years ago.
I’m sure everyone has that one fashion combination that, when seen, causes cringes. One only hopes that it is just a fad and it will go away. For me, what my father started, my husband carried forward. I’m doomed to either learn to like the style, ignore it or cherish it as a worthy characteristic in the two loves of my life.

The Different Levels of Elder Care Facilities

Whether you are thinking about moving to an elder care residential facility or worrying about moving a loved one to a facility, researching is the key. The research process can be long and stressful, so here are some helpful definitions to get you started.

  •  Independent Living

    This is a type of senior living where a person lives in an apartment-type complex. The complex has security and usually offers its residents transportation, group activities, and cafeteria style eating. Health care services are minimal. Laundry services can also be included.

  • Assisted Living

    This is also apartment-style living with group activities, food services and security. But this type of facility also provides basic health services. Skilled nursing (a level of care provided by trained persons such as RNs, physical therapists, etc.) is usually not included. Laundry services are usually included along with assistance in bathing and dressing.

  • Skilled Nursing Facility

    This is also known as a nursing home or a convalescent home where residents receive 24/7 care by licensed professionals. Housekeeping and laundry services are usually included, as well as bathing and dressing assistance.

One popular and emerging type of elder facility is the Continuing Care Retirement Community. A typical community of this type includes several residential complexes. A person in declining health can live in the independent living section of the complex, then as his/her health deteriorates, the elder can move to a different residence in the same complex that provides more and higher levels of health care assistance.

Medicaid for Parents Going Into Assisted Living

What is Medicaid?

Medicaid (not Medicare) is a federal/state health program for the needy and low-income. The rules are state-by-state and many of us are now looking at Medicaid for our parents that have little to no assets and who need to be in either assisted living or full time nursing care.

Each State has Different Medicaid Rules

The Medicaid rules in all states are very detailed and hard to follow. But, safe to say that there are two eligibility requirements – income and assets. There are assets that are counted by Medicaid and assets that are exempt. For instance, in Michigan, a person can own only $2,000.00 in assets to be eligible for Medicaid, and a person’s primary residence is exempt – not counted – in the total assets. If the assets exceed the minimum, a person must personally pay for the assisted living or nursing care until the assets reach that level.

Income levels are another eligibility requirement. Most, if not all of a person’s income, is paid directly to the assisted or nursing care facility. Again, the requirements go by state.
The cost of assisted living and nursing care facilities also vary by type and by state. The costs can be $4,000.00 per month and up, depending on where you live, the type of facility and the level of nursing care needed by the ailing person. The best thing to do is, when it is getting harder for a family to take care of an ailing person on their own, begin to check out some of the facilities for cleanliness, level of care, cost and waiting time. Some of the better facilities have a waiting list and, if you will need Medicaid, only a certain number of beds may be allocated to Medicaid patients. Don’t wait until the last minute, especially if you can do your research now.

Medicaid Recovery after Death

If you are able to qualify for Medicaid, there is another caveat that you must watch out for after death, and that is Medicaid recovery. States are required to seek recovery from a person’s estate for payments made by Medicaid. Some states seek repayment in an aggressive manner, but some states don’t make a big effort in the recovery process. In any case, remember that it is the person’s estate from which Medicaid can seek recovery. So, if there is nothing in the estate – nothing that needs to go to probate court – there is no recovery to seek. One of the main items of recovery is a person’s primary residence. If the spouse is no longer living, or if there is no spouse, and the house isn’t deeded to another person at the time of death of the Medicaid recipient, the house will most likely go to probate court and the state could file a claim to recoup its money. In these instances, it is best to put someone else’s name on the deed. Many states call the deed different names – transfer on death deed, beneficiary deed, ladybird deed, etc. With these types of transfers, upon death, then the house automatically goes to the other person listed on the deed. This avoids the house going into probate, and consequently, avoids a recovery claim by Medicaid.

I Love Pinterest Because I Can’t Visualize

I Don’t Have the Creativity Gene and Pinterest Helps

Pinterest is information overload and it intimidated me at first. But it is the greatest thing in the world if you can’t visualize, like me. If you know what you want, but can’t describe it or can’t draw it, Pinterest is wonderful. The best of the best ideas are on this website and it helps me find exactly what I am looking for. For instance, I had yellow in one of the bathrooms that couldn’t be changed. I didn’t know what colors worked with yellow, so I got onto Pinterest and searched yellow bathrooms. Low and behold, there were a ton of other colors that went well with the yellow, but when I saw the pictures of yellow and gray bathrooms, that was it! I was consumed by all the pictures and ideas by putting yellow and gray together. Those were the bathroom colors I wanted.  Yes, I could have gone through 10 or 12 magazines to find the right colors and ideas for the bathroom. But Pinterest made it so easy and there was so many more choices. Now, I’m not getting paid for saying this, and no one asked me to give a good rating to the website.  I honestly wanted to let people know that this is a great website for ideas, especially if you don’t quite know what you want, or can’t see what you want in your own mind.

Downsizing for Lifestyle – Don’t Become One Big Storage Bin

Moving to a Smaller Home

Downsizing is not the easiest decision to make. Many people consider the financial aspects of a smaller home. Not me. My motivation was that I just got tired of cleaning a big house where only two people lived.

Sorting Through Years of Storage

When we reached semi-retirement, we found a house about five hours away. The house was about half the size of our then-current house. I was responsible for packing everything up and sending it off to our new two bedroom house. What I realized when I was packing was that our house had turned into one giant storage facility. Every room was filled with furniture, clothes, paperwork, toys and dishes that we had not used in several years. Every closet was filled. Every cupboard was loaded to the max (I mean, why did I need 10 plastic beverage containers?) Everything was in “storage.” There was no need to hang onto those items, except for the sentimental value some of the items brought me when I looked at them and thought about the memories. But I had no choice. I was moving to a much smaller house which required less cleaning. (My biggest pet peeve is spending one day every weekend dusting and vacuuming and washing floors. When I was younger, this only took a couple of hours each week, but as I have gotten older, over time the couple of hours lengthened to a full day.

Half of Half is All You Need

In cleaning out the old house, I figured I could only take half my stuff to the new house. So, I muddled through and began pitching things, giving stuff to the neighbors and holding a couple of garage sales. I unloaded about half our old house and packed up the rest for the big move. Little did I know that I packed too much. The moving boxes filled our new basement from floor to ceiling. We didn’t have enough room to even begin unpacking. So, again, I had to throw things away, give stuff to the neighbors and hold garage sales. The expense of moving boxes only to have to give away the contents drove me crazy. But we did it and finally found the balance between our household items and our “storage.”

In the end, my recommendation when moving to a home half the size of your old home, you can only take about 1/4 of your stuff. So, downsize in the old home while you can. I will admit that we had about a dozen boxes that we put in the basement at the new house. Eight years later – we still haven’t looked in those boxes. That tells me that we really didn’t need all that stuff from our old house. We are just fine with what we have.

What Happened to Face to Face Talk?

Number 9 Number 9 Number 9 – Before the Internet

The Beatles, or the Fab Four as I so affectionately remember them, has their entire remastered catalog out in the public and it went on sale in 2009.  I remember playing Revolution 9 when the whole “Paul is dead” theory was rampant throughout the US. We played the song backward at “Number 9 Number 9 Number 9” and absolutely and positively thought we heard “turn me on dead man” and that this was a clue to Paul McCartney’s premature death. We sleuths were putting two and two together and were convinced between the Number 9 clue and the Abbey Road album, where Paul is walking across the street barefoot, that our idol was truly dead, and that an imposter was playing Paul. Conspiracy theories ran rampant back then. My friends and I would sit around camp fires, sit in our pajamas in each other’s basements at pj parties and just debate about the whole death theory (Why would someone make it up? How could they get the album to play backward? What about the license plate on Abbey Road? Didn’t you hear the car crash on that song?)

Wondering How We Would Debate it Now

That was before the internet. Face-to-face discussions about issues that affected our lives. I just wonder what it would be like if the whole “Paul McCartney is dead” theory happened now, with the internet, rather than back in the 1960’s.