Smart estate planning is the legal equivalent of kung-fu, in the sense that you can protect your assets and defend against certain creditors, potential lawsuits and scammers. Unfortunately, Americans over the age of 50 are ideal targets for scammers attempting to steal what they have accumulated over a lifetime.
The FBI provides a number of reasons why this is true. Primarily, older Americans have a significant number of assets, including homes and retirement savings. They have health needs and concerns that can be exploited by swindlers. Additionally, when the elderly are scammed, they are not sure who to report it to, are too ashamed of having been scammed, or they are unaware of the deception.
One such prevalent scam involves using a Social Security Administration (“SSA”) phone number in an attempt to steal vital personal information. The Federal Trade Commission says the incoming calls show SSA’s customer service number, 800-772-1213, on caller ID, although in reality, the call can come from anywhere. This use of a legitimate telephone number to trick people is known as “spoofing.” The caller identifies himself as an employee of Social Security and says something such as your account lacks necessary information, such as your Social Security number. Other scams involve an offer to increase your benefit payment or threaten to end your benefits if you do not confirm the information they have on file. There are several ways that you can not only fend off spoofers, but also setup an estate plan which will ensure your financial affairs are protected.
If You Get a Spoofed Call
The FTC recommends that you hang up and call SSA directly. Dial 800-772-1213—which is the correct telephone number for the Social Security Administration. When you dial the number yourself, you can rest assured that you are speaking to an official employee.
Keep in Mind
- The Social Security Administration will not threaten you.
- Legitimate SSA employees will never try to intimidate you in order to gain your personal information.
- They will not promise to increase your benefits in exchange for “missing information.”
If you get a spoofed call, report it to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General at 800-269-0271 or on its website. You can also report these calls to the Federal Trade Commission. You may remain anonymous and there are federal laws protecting employees of SSA from reprisals.
Seek Legal Counsel
If you have exhausted your options and are still being harassed, you may seek the advice of a competent attorney who focuses on consumer protection. Additionally, it is beneficial to speak with an estate planning attorney who focuses on asset and wealth protection. Putting your wishes in writing can secure your family’s future and provide you with peace of mind. Here are some tools utilized by experienced estate planning attorneys to make sure your hard-earned money is protected:
A “Living Trust” is a primary estate-planning document that is used in place of a Last Will and Testament (“Will”). Assets are then transferred into the Trust.
- Trusts are used to by-pass probate. This means that upon your death, all assets in the Trust pass to the beneficiaries through the Trust, and not through any court process.
- Trusts can provide your beneficiaries with asset protection. Upon inheriting any monies or assets through a Trust, the beneficiary enjoys financial protection from future creditors, divorces, and bankruptcy.
- Trusts are fully revocable: the creator can change any terms or completely revoke (cancel) the Trust.
- Trusts are private documents that unlike Wills, do not become a part of the public record.
A Last Will and Testament (“Will”) is an important estate-planning document that, although losing in popularity to a Living Trust, can still provide crucial financial organization. Our attorneys experienced in Wills can help you get organized.
- Wills are used to designate who should receive your assets upon your death. The people or charities you designate are called beneficiaries.
- Wills allow you to appoint someone to become “Personal Representative” of your estate. This person will be responsible for carrying out your last wishes according to your directions as stated in the Will.
- If you have minor children (those under 18 years of age in Florida), you can appoint a Guardian(s) who will care for them in case of your death. This reduces lawsuits that arise over custody in cases of sudden or unexpected death.
Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or email@example.com to learn how an ironclad estate plan can shield you from potential scammers, spoofers, or unexpected life events.