Dear Jeanne and Leonard: How can we save our mother from a con man? Mom’s in her mid-80s and very capable, but she’s fallen under the sway of a clever scam artist, who has tricked her into believing he’s her friend. We’ve contacted the district attorney’s office, and they agree that he’s a crook. However, they say they can’t do anything until a crime has actually been committed. But by then it will be too late. Please help. Our mother’s lifetime of savings is at risk.
– Concerned Children, Greater Kansas City Area
Dear Concerned Children: Too bad you’re not related to Tony Soprano. He’d know how to solve the problem.
Fortunately, so does your state’s Adult Protective Services department. Your mother is not the first elderly person to be targeted by a con man, and these folks can help you protect her. Plus they may be able to persuade the D.A. to be more proactive.
You also might consider asking someone in law enforcement to put you in touch with a licensed private investigator – say, a physically imposing ex-cop – whom you can pay to knock on the con man’s door, look him in the eye and tell him to cut it out. The creep who’s targeting your mother needs to know he’s being watched, and not just by you.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: For my birthday, my daughter-in-law gave me a lovely pair of pajamas and included with them a gift receipt. When I went to exchange the pajamas for the proper size, they were on sale for $20 less than my daughter-in-law had paid, so the store gave me a gift card. My instinct is to give the $20 card to my daughter-in-law, but I’m afraid that could offend her. What should I do?
– N.M., Greater San Antonio Area
Dear N.M.: Trust your instincts: Give your daughter-in-law the card. She may give it right back – and you should accept it if she does – but she will appreciate your thoughtfulness.
If, though, you have a specific reason to believe your daughter-in-law will be offended, that’s different. In that case, treat her to a nice lunch instead. As long as she gets the benefit of the sale price, how she gets it isn’t important.
Dear Jeanne and Leonard: A few years back, I put $20,000 into an IRA at a large national bank and purchased a CD with the funds. Last year the CD matured, so, at the suggestion of someone in investments at the bank, I transferred the proceeds into a regular savings account and forgot about it. Now, to my horror, I’ve learned from my accountant that I owe 25 percent of that $20,000 to the IRS and another 10 percent to the state of Oregon. I’m sick! No one at the bank said anything about taxes when I was transferring the money into the savings account. I’ve called the bank to complain, but they say informing me of the tax liability was not their responsibility. What can I do?
– P.T., Portland, Ore.
Dear P.T.: Find another bank.
We’re no experts in the legal obligations of the banking industry. But when it comes to good business practices, the bank was sorely remiss if no one reminded you that there were likely to be tax consequences associated with the transaction you say they encouraged you to make.
To be fair, however, you should have known that you have to pay taxes on a withdrawal from an IRA. That’s how IRAs work, and you had an obligation – to yourself – to have learned that when you opened the account, and an obligation to have remembered it when you decided to close the IRA.
The best thing for you to do at this point is ask your accountant to review your investments and advise you of the tax considerations associated with each of them. Better to pay a CPA a few hundred dollars for an education than to again be surprised by four-figure tax bills.
Please email your questions about money and relationships to Questions@MoneyManners.net.