Watch Dad’s and Mom’s Credit!

Fingerprint-2904774_640I recently read an article about a 103-year-old man who got himself into a credit mess. 

His memory had recently begun to decline, so his son used a power of attorney to take over Dad’s finances, including his checkbook and credit cards.

Although Son took Dad to look at assisted living facilities, Dad did not want to leave his retirement community where he lives alone, drives his own golf cart, and dates a former beauty queen. Who can blame him?

However, Dad decided one day to spruce up his home, so he called a repair company which he had used for over ten years to inspect his air conditioning. He didn’t remember to consult his son. As a result, Dad agreed to pay more than $24,000 for two new AC units and a warranty. Because he did not have access to credit cards or checks, he took out a 12-year loan, which could have added an additional $18,000 in interest. 

Son was furious when he found out, and believed Dad had been taken advantage of, as Son felt Dad was not competent to sign a contract. However, the company said that when they dealt with Dad he seemed the same as he always had been, showed no signs of any mental deficiency, and they and no knowledge of his declining memory; they said they do inquire further if they have information of a competency issue. 

The good news: Son and the company negotiated a settlement reducing the price of the units and cancelling the warranty.

There do not appear to be any villains here, but this could have been prevented. Son did almost everything right to keep Dad from making bad financial decisions. The one thing that Son did not think about doing was to freeze Dad’s credit, which makes it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts, or a parent to open a credit line without the child knowing. How can that be done?

  • Contact the three credit agencies, Equifax (800-685-1111), Experian (888-397-3742), and TransUnion (888-909-8872).
  • Provide the person’s name, address, date of birth, Social Security number, and other relevant personal information.
  • Verify your identification, provide a court order, power of attorney, or other documents showing you have authority to act.
  • Request that notifications come to you.
  • If requested by telephone, the account must be frozen within one business day.
  • The company will provide a PIN or password, which you will need to lift the freeze.
  • If you request that the freeze be lifted, it must be done within one hour.

This can be an important, but often overlooked, step in protecting a parent from “creditors and predators”.


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