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Protecting Yourself and Loved Ones from Elder Financial Abuse
Every year, millions of seniors fall victim to financial abuse. Understanding what elder financial abuse can look like, and preventative steps that can be taken, can help you protect you or loved ones from this kind of exploitation. In recognition of Older Americans Month in May, Third Federal is providing tips and advice to prevent the financial abuse of older adults.
Elder financial abuse is defined as the unauthorized, illegal, or inappropriate use of an aging adult’s financial resources. Those who commit this abuse often prey on seniors experiencing cognitive decline, limited mobility and other disabilities that require them to rely more heavily on others for help. Vulnerability is worse for seniors living alone without caring adults around to provide basic checks and balances of financial management. Although financial abusers of the elderly vary, the most common perpetrators, sadly, come from the victim’s own family. The web of perpetrators spreads from family and may include friends and neighbors, caregivers and aids, attorneys and financial advisors, and professional scam artists.
Some common warning signs that a person may be a victim of financial abuse include:
- Sudden or unexplained changes in spending habits.
- Surrendering control of finances to a new friend or partner.
- Suddenly changing a will, a trust, or beneficiary designations.
- Unexplained checks made out to cash.
- Disappearance of assets like cash, valuables, securities, etc.
- Signs of anxiety or fear when asked about finances.
If you or someone you care about may be vulnerable to elder financial abuse, there are some protective action items to consider:
- Stay connected and involved with family and friends.
- Use automatic bill payment services.
- Shred financial statements and preapproved credit card offers instead of discarding them in the trash.
- Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Never provide information, including: Social Security Number, account number(s) or other financial information to anyone who contacts you on the phone or through email.
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion before signing any documents.
- Get to know your banker and have relationships with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for suspicious activity related to your accounts.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
- Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
If you believe you are a victim of financial abuse:
- Contact your bank(s) or financial institution(s) immediately.
- Talk to a trusted family member or friend.
- Talk to your attorney.
- Contact Adult Protective Services in your state, or your local police, for help.
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