Getting old doesn't have to mean giving up control of your personal finances. But it should mean taking extra care to stay on top of your money matters and protect yourself from financial fraudsters who prey on senior citizens.
With that in mind, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., a U.S. government agency that provides federal deposit insurance for U.S. bank accounts, has released some tips for the older set to safeguard themselves financially.
Here are some of the recommendations.
- Think twice before you accept an "advance" of a portion of your pension, Social Security benefit or other retirement income. These advances are actually loans and often involve costly fees and rates. Many people who use these loans end up taking out more of them in the future and paying additional fees and interest charges just to keep up with the original loan.
- If you need financial help from an expert, choose that person wisely. Don't be misled by "special credentials" that might not mean much. Ask questions, do research and confirm that anyone you hire is properly registered or licensed and has a clean record.
- Review your credit card and bank statements every month, looking for errors or any charges for services you didn't order or might want to cancel because you don't need those products or services.
- Know that if you’ve agreed to let your bank cover debit card overdrafts, you could be charged $30 or more in fees to cover an overdraft. If you opt out of this coverage, your debit card purchase might be declined, but you'll avoid those fees. Know also that your choice to opt in or not applies only to debit card payments, not checks you write or recurring bills charged to your bank account.
- Some banks offer seniors discounts on banking and other financial services. But you might be able to get better deals that aren't specifically targeted to seniors. Shop around and ask questions before you sign up for any "senior" financial services.
- Remember the warning signs of fraud, which can include an unsolicited phone call, email or other request that you pay a large sum before you receive promised goods or services or an unexpected email or phone call requesting your bank account number or the information printed at the bottom of one of your checks. Never give your Social Security number, bank account information, PIN, password and other sensitive information in response to an unsolicited call, fax, letter, email or text message, no matter how genuine the request might appear. Beware of any offer that seems too good to be true or any "friend" who expresses a new or unusual interest in your finances.
How cautious are you when you're asked for personal information?