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Second Wind: Be vigilant with your ‘geezer dollars’

Here’s some good news: In the United States, we who are over 65 have $15 trillion dollars in assets. Wow, 15 trillion geezer dollars, which probably doesn’t even include those valuable old Fillmore posters or the vintage bellbottoms in the back of the closet.

But with so rich a prize, there’s a downside: Wolves in the shape of people trying to get into your bank account, to sell you terrible investments, to get you to wire them money overseas or to ask you to give them personal banking information ” this so they can steal your identity and your dough.

Worse still, other people who actually know you ” the relatives, the caregivers ” may pressure you to change a will in their favor or get you to add their signature to your bank accounts. Note: When they say “joint,” they are not referring to a smoke, but to a joint bank account that will be theirs as soon as you fall off your twig.



A few ways to say good bye to your bucks

So how do bad people take your money? Let me count the ways. Actually, I can’t count that high because there is a new scheme of the week for robbing older people of their assets. Here are just a few scams to keep in mind:




The letter or e-mail from a stranger wanting help in transferring money from a foreign county to the U.S.

I have gotten these letters and e-mails from China, Africa, Canada and most recently from Iraq, where I would supposedly make a huge commission helping a “patriot” transfer money from Iraq to the U.S. But, of course, I have to send some of my own money offshore to make the whole scheme work.

The phone call from the “bank” or the “DMV” wanting to confirm your personal information.

There will be some plausible reason why these impostors supposedly need this information from you. Hang up. They just want to steal your identity.

The e-mail from a “bank” or “PayPal” or “credit card company” wanting personal information from you. This is called “phishing” and the sucker fish they want data from is you. And don’t be fooled by Web sites that perfectly mimic the real ones. They are

counterfeit. Delete the e-mail.

Investment seminars given for older people by “certified elder planning specialists” or “registered financial gerontologists.” These hucksters with their few days of sales training are well paid to steer older people into unwise investments such as deferred annuities that, according to real financial specialists, are usually a bad idea for most older people. So stay home from the seminar, even if they offer a free lunch. To read an excellent investigative piece on this subject, Google “Deferred annuities New York Times.”

Pressuring the elderly to change a will, give out an ATM code or add the cheater’s signature to bank or investment accounts. I know a case where a woman nagged a very ill person, convincing him the only way to save on taxes was to make all his accounts joint with her as the other signer. The scheme worked, the culprit came away with a six-figure haul and the family could never prove undue influence. Moral of the story: Beware of people who try to get you to make changes in their favor when it comes to your financial accounts or will.

And you do have a will, right? That Fillmore poster should end up with the right person. So should your dog. And yes, OK, the money too.

Words for the wise

There are wolves in the woods, though they may wear sheep’s clothing as a “certified” this or that. To get informed about real advisors, take an online trip to http://www.wikipedia.org. Look up certified financial planner. The link will tell you how to find a qualified professional and what 10 questions to ask him or her. Meanwhile, read up on the subject. Try “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing” by Vanguard founder John Bogle.

So don’t let the shysters win. Seventy-eight million aging Boomers are going to need trillions because living to 100 means that the nest egg has to last 30 or 40 years.

Bottom line: Stay alert financially so you won’t be eating Fancy Feast feline entrees in your golden years.

ooo

Mel Walsh is a local gal with a degree in gerontology, the study of older people, but she has learned far more about aging from life itself. Take her Web site out for a spin, http://www.melwalsh.com. Buy her book, “Hot Granny,” and enjoy the giggles.


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