The elderly are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse. At least 20 percent of Americans over the age of 65, more than 7.3 million seniors, have been victimized by financial abuse. Quite often, the situation of financial exploitation involves a trusted person in the life of the vulnerable adult such as caretakers, family members, neighbors, friends, acquaintances and more.
Fraudsters use deceit, threats and emotional manipulation to carry out their scams. Being aware of warning signs and taking simple steps to safeguard personal information can protect elderly men and women from financial abuse. Warning signs can include unusual account activity, unpaid bills or eviction notices, suspicious signatures, new “best friends” and new powers of attorney or altered wills.
If you suspect that you or a family member have been the victim of elder financial abuse, take immediate action. Victims should report the suspected abuse to their bank and enlist their help in fixing and preventing fraud. Victims should contact the local police and Adult Protective Services in the appropriate town or state to report the problem.
Seniors can help protect themselves from financial abuse by following these tips:
- Keep personal information private. Never share your social security number, account information, or personal details over the phone or internet, unless you initiated contact with a trusted source.
- Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away so fraudsters can’t piece together your personal information.
- Never let a new or untrusted “advisor” pressure you into sharing personal or financial details. They could be a fraudster.
- Check your credit report at least once a year at Equifax, Experian and TransUnion to ensure no new credit cards or accounts have been opened by criminals in your name.
As the saying goes, “Respect your elders.” To ensure the security and dignity of your senior friends and family members, be proactive not just about their emotional and physical health, but their financial well-being too.