parents finances

How to Protect your Elderly Parents Finances

Apr 20, 2016

One day, you will need to take care of your elderly parents finances. As people age, the roles of child and parent often slowly reverse.

Elder financial abuse is becoming prevalent. Sadly, caretakers and relatives are often to blame. A single scam can cost your parents a big chunk of their nest egg. So how do you safeguard your parents finances? Here are five ways you can protect your elderly parents from being swindled out of their hard-earned life’s savings.


1.    Discuss Your Parents Finances

When your parents reach a certain age, it may seem distasteful to ask them where they keep their money, but it’s an essential conversation to have nonetheless. There will come a time when your elderly parents will need you to step in and handle their daily finances.

Do them the courtesy of asking when they would like you take over the wheel. You should be aware of where they keep their important paperwork. Ensure that their deeds and wills are stored in a safe place, where they cannot be accessed by just anyone or damaged.

Acquaint yourself with the financial, tax and legal professionals they have hired to look out for their interests, and ensure they are trustworthy. If they don’t have an attorney, financial advisor or accountant, recommend they appoint some trusted professionals to manage your parents’ finances.


2.    Keep an Eye Out for Signs

Keep an eye out for signs that your elderly parents may be falling out of touch with their finances. Stacked up overdue bills are a tell-tale sign that they aren’t coping. Regularly check up on their bank accounts to ensure no suspicious activity has taken place. Look out for large withdrawals or abnormal purchases. Always investigate changes made to their wills or powers of attorney.


3.    Watch Out for Scams

The elderly make easy prey for fraudsters. These con-artists often operate over the phone. So be sure to educate your parents about the warning signs and commonly used tactics. Advise them to refrain from making payments or divulging sensitive information to strangers over the phone or online.

A popular scam involves phoning the victim and telling them they have won money, for the purpose of gaining details about your parents finances. Other times, the con-artist will pose as an official from SARS and threaten to take legal action, if they don’t pay what they supposedly owe.

To block unsolicited phone calls, encourage your parents to register their names on the National Direct Marketing Association of South Africa OPT OUT Registry at This will also reduce the amount of junk mail they receive.

Stress the dangers of sharing their ID or Medical Aid numbers with strangers. Also, inform them that SARS will only contact them via ordinary post for tax matters. So, they should never open any emails proclaiming to be from SARS, as these are likely phishing scams.


4.    Ensure They Understand Before They Sign

Advise your parents never to sign anything they don’t fully understand. It’s best to have a trusted professional, who understands legal and financial jargon, to look over any contract or legal document, before your parents sign.

Their lawyer or financial advisor, depending on the document, will let them know if the agreement is legitimate, worthwhile and safe to sign.


5.    Stay In-the-know about Financial Fraud

Check regularly to stay in-the-know about current scams. If you suspect your elderly parents finances are at risk, call the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) helpline: 0860 101 248 or visit for more information on how to proceed.


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