Monday, February 27, 2017

The Scary Effect of Caller ID

Debbie Pecor, Senior Paralegal
As a grandmother, I love when my grandchildren call just to talk.  To think that they took time out of their day to give me a call to see how I am doing or tell me how their day is going just warms my heart.

I am, however, seeing a trend in clients who say that they or their child’s grandparent received a phone call from “their” child or grandchild who identifies himself by name, may even say what school she is in, or may say that he or she is in a foreign country on a trip with friends and he’s in a lot of trouble and “needs money quick!”  And if they are calling the grandparent, they also say, “Please don’t tell Mom or Dad; they will be so mad that I got into trouble!”  They call their grandparent by name (Granny, Grampa, Poppie, Nana, etc.).  Or it could even be someone claiming to be a police officer saying that your grandchild is in trouble, or had a bad accident, or any type of story that will pull at your heart-strings.  What is the first thing we want to do??? Jump into action, of course.

The instructions almost always include that the money transfer needs to be done through PayPal in smaller increments (usually $500 or less) and asks the grandparent to make as many transfers as it takes to equal the amount of money they need.  The caller may also ask the grandparent to send the money in their “friend’s” name because there is no way for them to pick it up.  DON’T DO IT!!!!!!  Call your grandchild and be sure that they are okay before you do anything!!!!  And after that, call the police!  In one instance, a very nice police officer called the grandchild and had him talk to his grandfather and assure him that he was okay, BEFORE the money was sent (thanks to a very smart clerk at the store where the cards were being purchased who continued to ask the grandparent if she could call the police and the grandparent finally agreed).

How did they know what to call you, and all that information that a grandparent thinks only their grandchild would know????  In most cases, from the grandchild’s cell phone that lists “Grandpa” or “Nana” as the contact name.  The rest they can get from your grandchild’s Facebook page.  Technology that was supposed to make it easier for us to keep in contact is being used by scammers.

Please don’t let your grandparents be victims.  If your cell phone lists your grandparent(s) by the name you call them, please change it to their first name with no mention of how they are related to you.

To those clerks who are helping elderly clients use PayPal, it doesn’t hurt to be a little wary.  If a customer has never used PayPal or Green Dot or whatever they are buying for the first time, ask them why they chose to use it now.  Let’s help each other not to be taken advantage of by people who are too lazy to work and would rather scam someone out of their hard-earned money.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Self-Protection Tips for Avoiding Financial Exploitation

Helena S. Mock, Esq.
About a year ago, an article ran in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Protect Your Future Self from Financial Abuse.”  The article identified several steps you can take now to protect yourself from financial exploitation in later years.  As we age, our brains change, and the changes are often too subtle to notice, at least at first.  And later, many who do notice those changes are not willing to face them.  So how can you “plan ahead” to make your life easier and help those you have put in place take charge upon incapacity?

Obviously, having a power of attorney and a medical directive which name people of your choosing to handle your legal, financial, and medical affairs is a first step.  But there’s more. As you head toward retirement, take stock of all financial accounts and begin to consolidate or pare down. This will simplify things for both you and those who come after you. Next, create a directory of all online accounts and identify usernames and passwords for each account. This directory should be kept where it can be located when needed, but not before.  In other words, it should not be kept out in the open where caregivers or even children or grandchildren could easily find it. Keeping it with your power of attorney makes sense. If you are uncomfortable with a written list, there are several online options such as,, and These sites are set up to store all passwords to any of your online accounts.  You should also select a “digital estate executor” to receive access to your accounts upon your incapacity or death. If your estate planning documents don’t reference accessing digital assets, they should be updated.

You should also consider identifying an emergency contact person through your attorney or financial advisor.  This way, if one of your trusted advisors notices significant changes in your personality, spending, or decision-making which raise concerns about your capacity, that individual can contact the person you identified without fear of repercussion or fear of violating confidentiality rules. This way, someone can step in, if it is ultimately determined to be necessary, before it is too late.

If you wish to read the Wall Street Journal’s article referenced above, you can access it at

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Dishwasher's Guide to Aging

Cathy Sears, Law Clerk
Growing up, my entire family went to my grandmother’s house for Christmas each year.  A big Irish-Italian family, all nineteen of my aunts, uncles, and cousins would pack into Nana’s family homestead – a modest ranch-style house.  Our Italian side reigned supreme, as we would forego the traditional turkey or ham that other families eat on Christmas Day and feast upon Nana’s famous lasagna instead.  (Her secret?  Spend an entire afternoon hand-rolling mini-meatballs for the dish.)

As the rest of us swapped stories and scooped up the last bits of homemade sauce with savory garlic bread, Nana would quietly retreat to the sink to begin hand-washing the mountain of dishes that accumulated.  The dishwasher had broken decades earlier and, per Nana’s Great Depression-era mindset, was deemed not worth the cost of replacing.  Occasionally, one of the grown-ups would offer assistance, while us kids scampered toward the dessert table, trying to sneak as many pieces of sugary fudge into our mouths before our parents noticed.  Being fiercely stubborn and independent, however, Nana always refused the help, and told the prospective helper to go socialize with their adult siblings instead.

Fast-forward to Christmas 2014.  Nana was 81 years old by this time and had begun talking about downsizing to a nearby condo complex.  Meanwhile, half of the grandchildren were in college or grad school with our own apartments and our own dishes to clean.  A few of us – who inherited our stubbornness from our grandmother – decided to beat Nana to the sink and wash the dishes ourselves.  Though she protested, she secretly looked relieved when we insisted that we had the situation under control.

As silly as it sounds, washing that mountain of dishes was my favorite part of Christmas that year.  Though certainly not as traditional as the tree, lights, or presents, it reminded me of the true spirit of the holiday season: a loving and giving spirit to those we encounter.

Now, I don’t share this story just to pat myself on the back.  Instead, I want to raise awareness at this time of year when those of us who live far away from our aging relatives may have visited family for the first time in a while.

Think back on your recent holiday visit with family.  Did your relative look as put-together as she usually does, or were her clothes uncharacteristically dirty or askew?  Was his home as tidy as it has been in the past, or were there piles of clutter?  Did she have difficulty hearing or understanding you when you talked?  Were there signs that he is having trouble managing his various medications?

If you’ve noticed changes in a loved one’s capabilities, consider talking to them now while they can still be part of the decision-making process and before they become a danger to themselves.  Making even a minor change that acknowledges the senior’s limitations – like hiring housekeeping services or making an appointment with an audiologist – may help your loved one maintain his or her quality of life for as long as possible.  It may be time to roll up your sleeves and get to work on those metaphorical dishes.