DEAR BRUCE: I went to a seminar that I saw advertised on TV, mostly about investing your money in their product. But one thing they said that scared me was that a power of attorney is good for only three years. I have never heard that. I hold the power of attorney for my mother, and it has been at least four years. Do I need to get this renewed? -- Reader, via email
DEAR READER: Powers of attorney and their rights and responsibilities vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I know of none where they automatically expire at the end of three years, but, then again, I've seen stranger things.
At the seminar, they may have been referring to conditions that may change in an individual's circumstances, and they may have been referring to a durable power of attorney.
By all means, this should be of concern to you. Consult an attorney in your jurisdiction and have him or her explain the difference between a general power and a durable power, as well as the important role they play in your financial life.
DEAR BRUCE: Recently I discovered that there seem to be several names associated with my Social Security number. I have contacted all of the credit reporting agencies to see if I can figure out what's going on. I'm afraid of what this could lead to. Do you have any suggestions on how I might protect myself? -- Reader in Colorado
DEAR READER: It sounds as if you're a victim of identity theft, which is definitely a growing problem.
The first thing I would do is to track down every way that your name has been used and then go to the business source where the name was used. I also would file complaints with the district attorney's office in each of the cities where this has taken place and suggest possible identity theft. Unfortunately, without knowing the extent to which the numbers were used, credit extended, etc., it's difficult to tell you what road to take.
Send questions to email@example.com or to Smart Money, P.O. Box 7150, Hudson, FL 34674. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.