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Is someone trying to steal your money?

Over the years, people have suggested to me that the need for financial advisors will diminish as future technologies advance. I don’t agree. In fact, for a variety of reasons, I’m convinced we’ll be needed more than ever. One of the biggest reasons is the proliferation of scams.

In this day and age, where investments can be bought and sold with the click of a keyboard, scammers thrive. At least, they try to. But it’s not as easy when alert advisors, who actually know the faces and investment histories of their clients, are keeping a watchful eye for would-be scams.

Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell recently spoke of an attempted fraud against a senior citizen. Of course, everyone is presumed innocent until found guilty, but charges have been filed against a 55-year- old pastor for allegedly trying to get money from a 91-year-old man. The pastor wanted to get a loan for a pontoon boat.

Sadly, the incident didn’t surprise me. What did surprise me was that the pastor had a folder full of Power of Attorney documents from other members of his church. Apparently he planned to take advantage of a number of seniors.

When proper instructions to redeem an investment are received, the process is generally handled promptly. A year ago last February, regulators gave financial advisors permission to stop the process long enough to investigate if they are suspicious of improper activity. Most advisors know their clients beyond the numbers. If someone works without an advisor, when the box is clicked on the keyboard the transaction is implemented, no questions asked.

That’s why we ask our clients for documentation of whom to contact if we were ever concerned about their future financial decisions. Generally, it’s a son or daughter.

 When I meet with a retired couple, I ask them to mentally and visually fast forward to a time when they’re deep into their retirement years. If, out of nowhere, we received a request to redeem six figures from their account, we want to have the authorization to question the transaction. And more often than not, they readily agree.

Clearly, there is a widespread and legitimate concern that people will be taken advantage of when they’re older and more vulnerable. Seniors have worked hard to accumulate a nest egg. Unfortunately, there are unscrupulous people lurking everywhere who want to take it and use it for their own benefit.

As long as there has been money, there have been scammers trying to rip it off. Because seniors are so polite and trusting, I believe they’re most vulnerable to such sweetheart scams as signing over accounts or deeds to someone they believe they should be able to trust.

I’m not suggesting that they shouldn’t trust anyone, but just to make sure that they’re financially transparent. Having a number of professional people and loved ones empowered to observe and monitor their assets is a good start. You never know when someone might get greedy. It might only be a few dollars, it may be for a down payment on a pontoon boat, but it could be an elderly person’s entire nest egg. No matter how big or small the scam, it’s just wrong and steps need to be taken to make certain you’re not a victim. Take those steps.