When a useful publication comes along, Northeast CONTACT likes to let consumers know. Because seniors make up a sizable percentage of our clientele, we think that a new booklet from Maine’s Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection will be a great resource.
It’s called the “Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection.” As its name indicates, it’s written for older Mainers who face some often daunting challenges in today’s market-place. The guide pulls together expert advice on all kinds of problems faced by seniors.
If the title sounds familiar, it should. The bureau has published a series of Downeaster Guides, this being the most recent. Earlier this year, the Bureau made available the “Downeaster Guide: Consumer Credit 101,” a primer on every important aspect of establishing and maintaining good credit for consumers of all ages.
The “Downeaster Guide to Elder Financial Protection” covers the waterfront — from avoiding scams to stopping unwanted junk mail to obtaining free credit reports. There’s advice for seniors whose identities have been stolen, who may be tempted to donate to a previously unheard-of charity, or who have had dealings with unlicensed credit repair agencies.
Advice in the guide could be useful to consumers of any age. Of special interest to seniors might be the sections on reverse mortgages. Not only must you be at least 62 years of age and own your own home to secure a reverse mortgage; federal law says you must also attend a counseling session to get all pertinent information about such an action.
One chapter deals with financial and other forms of abuse. It points out that more than 14,000 seniors are abused each year in Maine, and fewer than 10 percent of those cases are reported. Financial abuse can be ruinous, and it can take subtle forms. The guide has several tips for seniors:
– Think twice about co-signing a loan; you could be “stuck” for the entire loan amount.
– Think carefully before agreeing to help a family member pay off an existing loan.
– Plan ahead for your financial future. Consider meeting with a trusted person experienced in financial planning for elders; you may want to have this meeting without other family members present.
– Power of attorney agreements can be as broad or as narrow as the party wants. A senior should remember that such an agreement does not mean the person gives up his or her rights.
The guide also discusses steps to take in cases of financial or other abuse. Help is available at the Maine Office of Elder Services, 800-624-8408; Legal Services for the Elderly, 800-750-5353; or your nearest area Agency on Aging.
You can download the guide at www.Credit.Maine.gov. For a free printed copy call 800-DEBT-LAW or write to the Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, No. 35 State House Station, Augusta 04333-0035.
The Penobscot County Triad Coalition will hold a forum from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Spectacular Event Center in Bangor. Presenta-tions will deal with many of the topics covered in this and prior articles. Information on the event is available by calling the Eastern Area Agency on Aging.
The theme of the forum is “Building Safer Communities for Our Seniors,” and members of the board of Northeast CONTACT will attend. Stop by and say hello.
Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s membership-funded, nonprofit consumer organization. Individual and business memberships are available at modest rates.
For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for more information, write: Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.