This week’s Ask Carolyn addresses elder abuse, identity theft and a Medicare scam.
I live here, and my elderly mother lives in another state close to my wicked sister. Mother gave the sister and me a copy of her will. In the will, my sister would receive a car if my mother owned one at the time of her death. My mother had to stop driving at 90 and my sister sold her car. I understand my sister told my mother that she owed her a car and now I find out that not only did the sister get all of the proceeds of the car but also picked mother’s pocket and got the mother to add $20,000 to buy the sister a car. My mother is now in an assisted living facility with dementia. Mother has a power of attorney appointing a local lawyer in that state as attorney in fact (person authorized to perform business for my mother), and so the lawyer now has the checking account. The sister also had mother sign paperwork I have recently learned transferring some oil and gas rights to my sister’s daughter. I have a daughter too, and I cannot imagine my mother intentionally treating one grandchild better than another. Also, I don’t believe that my mother owned the oil and gas rights; I think my deceased father owned these rights – and my mother and father are divorced.
Carolyn Answers …
Ninety percent of elder abuse is perpetrated by an older adult’s own family member. Leading the way are the elderly person’s own child, perhaps because the child feels “entitled.” This is sad, and my heart goes out to the family when one family member takes advantage of another. In your situation, your mother and sister are in another state, and thus you do not have daily oversight of the situation. Perhaps your mother even feels dependent on the sister, and the ugly sister is taking advantage of the power.
You need a lawyer in the other state to look into the situation. Your facts probably give rise to a legal principle called “undue influence.” Undue influence is an equitable legal doctrine of one person with power (whether perceived or actual) taking advantage of another person who is weaker. It sounds like your sister has her hands in the cookie jar of undue influence.
The other thing you need to ask the lawyer about is the transfer of the oil and gas rights. I would do this rather quickly as you may need legal action to quiet title regarding the oil and gas rights. Those actions tend to have a short statute of limitations, so do not wait on this one.
Your sister is a humdinger. Why family members take advantage is difficult to explain? Act now. Your mother with dementia would want you to act. Know that.
I have recently been separated and I requested my credit report. Guess what? The report lists several credit cards that I never opened. I also found out I have a judgment against me for a bank loan I did not make. I think my identity has been stolen. What do I do ? I don’t know if my ex is involved or not. My credit score is low and I thought it was high. I always pay my bills.
Carolyn Answers …
It sounds like you are a victim of identity theft. You need to get the credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You are entitled to a free report from each of the three credit reporting agencies once every 12 months. You are going to have to investigate each line item on the credit report that is inaccurate. I would immediately contact at least one of the credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit records. Equifax is (888) 766-0008.
Next, I would file a report with the Federal Trade Commission at IndenityTheft.gov. If you register with this agency, the agency will provide a plan for your recovery.
You also will want to file a report with the police.
If the perpetrator turns out to be your ex, then you certainly will want to discuss this with your divorce attorney. Causing economic harm can be a factor in your favor for getting more than half of the marital property in the property settlement (equitable distribution). Identity theft also qualifies as mental cruelty (officially called “indignity”) as a marital fault factor in spousal support in North Carolina. I encourage you to be thorough in tracing the transactions and finding out what exactly happened.
I am 66 and I have Medicare. I got a call this week that bothers me. The caller identified herself as a Centers for Medicare an Medicaid Services employee. The caller said that Medicare was issuing new cards and that I needed a new card. The caller asked for my Medicare number and Social Security number, and the caller insisted that I must give this information and that my existing card would be no good in 10 days. I hung up. I am suspicious of this call and wonder if you know anything about this.
Carolyn Answers …
Medicare never will call, email or visit you and request personal information. This just is not part of the protocol. This call was a scam. I am glad you hung up. As it turns out, Medicare will be issuing new cards by April 2019 that no longer have your Social Security number on the card. This change will happen automatically, and you do not need to do anything.
The takeaway for readers: If anyone shows up at your home, email or phone to assist you with Medicare, assume you are the target of a scam. Slam the door, delete the email or hang up the phone. In this instance, rudeness is appropriate.
Send your questions on family law and divorce matters to email@example.com, or P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro, NC 27427. “Like” Ask Carolyn on Facebook and follow on Instagram and Twitter at Ask_Carolyn. Post questions for consideration for this column. Please do not put identifying information in your questions. Note that the answers in Ask Carolyn are intended to provide general legal information, and the answers are not specific legal advice for your situation. The column also uses hypothetical questions. A subtle fact in your unique case may determine the legal advice you need in your individual case. Also, please note that you are not creating an attorney-client relationship with Carolyn J. Woodruff by writing or having your question answered by Ask Carolyn.