Anti-Scam Tips For Surviving Spouses
Newspaper obituaries provide a service in notifying a large number of people in a short period of time about the death of a community member. Unfortunately, they also provide a list of potential victims to scam artists and thieves looking for emotionally vulnerable and, during memorial services, physically absent targets. A few simple guidelines can help you or your loved one avoid most of the common scams.
The most immediate vulnerability will be an empty house. Through an obituary, a thief can ascertain when the family will be away, and with friends and relatives coming and going, neighbors may assume the person going in while the family is gone has permission to do so. Ask a friend or neighbor to house sit - not just watch from next door - during visitations and services. (This rule also works well for weddings and anniversary parties that have been announced in the newspaper.)
Treat anything from an unknown party with suspicion. Invoices, calls regarding orders for products or services, investment opportunities and claims for money owed can all be scams looking to part distracted grieving survivors with their money. Pay those bills you know to be legitimate - mortgage, utilities, credit cards, car payments. Set everything else aside. If you don't have caller ID on your phone, consider getting it so you know before you answer who is on the line. And remember that companies that pressure you to make decisions or send money during a difficult time probably don't have good reasons for doing so.
Consider a checks-and-balances approach to decision making, especially regarding finances. Ask a family member, friend or trusted advisor such as an accountant, attorney or financial professional to review invoices and other claims before you send money. You will still have control of your money, and you'll have a second opinion from someone you trust.
Surviving spouses generally fall into two groups - those who believe they have plenty of money and those afraid they don't have enough. A wise decision would be to work with a Certified Financial Advisor, attorney and/or accountant to help review the surviving spouse's finances, including any lump sum payments from life insurance or a 401(k). These same professionals would be be a great resource, should you or a loved one need financial assistance during bereavement.
Lean On Me - There are 2,184 federal assistance programs, i.e., projects, services and activities that provide assistance or benefits to the American public, including financial and nonfinancial assistance (source: Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, BTN Research).
Global Business - The U.S. has only 314.6 million citizens in a worldwide population of 7.05 billion people, i.e., 95.5 percent of the world's potential consumers for U.S. businesses are not Americans (source: Census Bureau, BTN Research).
Sticky Debt - Americans age 30 or older are responsible for 66 percent of the $914 billion of student loans outstanding nationwide as of June 30, 2012 (source: New York Federal Reserve, BTN Research).