Start the conversation
Don’t just tell your parents not to answer the phone or trash letters that may seem fishy. Explain to them why some of these situations don’t make sense. Let’s say your mom received a phone call from someone claiming to be the IRS and was requesting her personal information and an instant payment. Explain to her that the IRS seldom makes outbound phone calls. Most of their communications happens through the mail.
The majority of the time if the IRS is trying to reach you, they’ll send you several letters prior to calling on the phone. If your parents think they owe taxes, they should reach out to the IRS directly.
Educate and share experiences
Education and awareness is the first step toward protecting your parent’s finances. If you’ve heard a recent scam story, it may be helpful to share it with your parents. There are new scams that pop up every day. So, before having to deal with them firsthand, make your parents aware of what’s going on around them.
You don’t want to make them fearful, just proactive in protecting their own identity and assets. Knowledge is power, and the more they know the more confident they will hopefully feel.
Help them take appropriate precautions
Have your parents recently checked their credit report? Have they put their address on the opt-out list with the Direct Marketing Association? Set aside some time to show them steps they can take to reduce their vulnerability. Here are some places to start:
- If they haven’t already, help them create their ‘My Social Security’ account at ssa.gov. This will give them access to their Social Security information so no one else can register using their Social Security number(s).
- Have them check their credit reports at least once a quarter at AnnualCreditReport.com. Be on the lookout for unauthorized activities and suspicious accounts.
- Unlist their phone numbers. Register for the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Remove their address from the Direct Marketing Association. Once this has been completed, marketers should not be able to send junk mail. If they do receive mail, they’ll know it may be suspicious and should be reported to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
- If they’re thinking of working with a financial advisor, check out his or her background, experience, and licenses at BrokerCheck.org.
The Simply Money Point
Be involved in your parents’ lives and help them understand various identity threats and scams. By educating them and building their awareness, you can better help protect them.