Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Dishonest Son Drains Mom's Accounts - Use Technology to Help Protect Your Money

Did you see the news story about the woman whose account was drained by her credit union to pay off bogus charges made by her son who was addicted to drugs and abusing his power of attorney? It's an outrageous story and was a reminder to me to take advantage of today's technology to keep an eye on my financial accounts, and to remind all of you to do the same!

This woman was living in an assisted care facility and her son had been given what was supposed to be temporary power of attorney years ago. But in her credit union's records, it specifically says that the son had the ability to act as if he was her, as far as their records were concerned. Well unfortunately, he had started doing drugs and being dishonest, and had totally taken advantage of this power, and had started draining his mother's accounts.

You can read all about it here: Credit Union Abuse Story.

It's just a really sad story and very upsetting that someone who was given that trust would abuse his mother in that way. Unfortunately, the credit union did not catch the change in spending behavior for quite some time, which is surprising to me, because I know my bank alerts me regularly. I'll get those little fraud protection alerts if I do things different than my normal spending. You know how it goes, you get the phone call and they'll be like, "Hey, this is your credit union's fraud protection," and they'll have you verify transactions. It's annoying, but also wonderful, because you know your accounts are being protected.

But for whatever reason, in this case, the credit union didn't notice the change in behavior for a long time. When they did finally meet with her to resolve it, they ended up deciding that the charges were not considered fraudulent at all, since her son had been legally given the power to act for her. For all intents and purposes, it was as if she had been making those charges herself.

She was able to revoke the power of attorney at that point, but she was still legally obligated for all the transactions that had happened in the past. This was taken to court by lawyers representing the woman, and the most recent ruling on the case is that really there's not legal thing that the credit union did wrong. So there's nothing she can do to get back these tens of thousands of dollars. Especially because her son is now deceased, complicating things further.

Anyway, it's just a sad reminder to all of us to make sure that we realize that we can't depend on the credit untion or the bank, or anybody else to be checking our accounts and making sure they're being used wisely. While most banks will, in good faith, deal with fraudulent charges, and we have Visa guarantees and things like that, in this case, the charges are not actually considered fraudulent because he had power of attorney.

This case reminded me of the fact that we have the power of today's technology to help us keep an eye on these types of things, and we should be using it to our advantage!

You can set things up to get alerts and reminders when things are different on your account. I would strongly encourage you to take a few minutes to see what technologies are available at your financial institutions. You can get text messages or emails when, for instance, your spending patterns change dramatically, so that you will be notified. This will give you the heads up to go in and check your accounts and make sure everything is okay, and catch things early so that you don't end up in a bad situation like what happened to this woman.

Also, just a reminder: If you have an elderly parent or someone else that you are responsible for, be sure to set these up for them as well. Just double check on things with them and make sure these alerts are in place and that you will be notified to help them as needed. We need to take better care of the elderly who spent their lives doing things for all of us so that we can have the lives we have today.

Have a safe and tech savvy week!
~JS~ 🌞

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