Protecting Seniors From Financial Abuse

protecting seniors from financial abuse

According to the American Banking Association, seniors control more than 70% of the nation’s wealth. Unfortunately, that statistic combined with the vulnerabilities inherent in the aging process (living alone, cognitive decline, inability to hear/understand things clearly, etc.), make the senior population particularly vulnerable to financial abuse.

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to prevent this insidious form of elder abuse, to keep precious seniors and their financial assets safe, and protecting seniors from criminals.

Tips For Protecting Seniors Finances

Have conversations about finances, future plans, and financial fraud

For many households, the subject of finances is considered private or taboo. Unfortunately, keeping this subject in the dark makes it easier for senior financial abuse to take place without anyone being the wiser until it’s too late.

If you’re comfortable, have a family meeting with senior loved ones and broach this subject honestly and directly. Reviewing something like Investopedia’s 10 Tips to Avoid Common Financial Scams, is a general and safe place to start.

Since isolation and cognitive decline (dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.) make seniors more vulnerable, check in regularly or help out with tracing bill payments and pay attention to any “new” friends or companions that seem suspicious.

You can also read, Difficult Topics with Family Members, for tips on protecting seniors and addressing the spectrum of things that come up as our loved one’s age.

Provide financial planners and brokers with a trusted contact

The bulk of many seniors’ retirement accounts and financial assets are held or monitored by their financial planners or brokers. That’s why the new Finra rule, requiring brokers to get the name of a “trusted contact” is a smart move and one that should help to stop financial elder abuse – or at least red flag it – before it has dramatic consequences.

This law ensures that any unusual or dramatic financial moves made by a client (either a fraud acting as the client OR the client acting in compliance with a financial criminal) are brought to the attention of the “trusted contact” for evaluation and assessment.

Make sure all of your senior’s accounts have a “trusted contact” named on them to protect their interests.

Never provide SS# or sensitive information over the phone or online

There is only one time where seniors can provide their SS# or sensitive, financial information over the phone – if THEY initiated the call. If anyone ever calls and asks for that type of information over the phone, regardless of how credible the caller seems, the senior should politely hang up and then call their bank, credit card company (or whichever company said they called) to speak to a representative and verify the information requested originated from them, and not a fraud.

Have seniors choose a power of attorney

Having a Power of Attorney (POA) in place is an immediate advantage if you suspect or detect financial abuse has occurred. POAs are also helpful for communicating with your parent’s doctor or scenarios where medical directives need to be implemented.

Take advantage of free credit checks

Free credit checks are available annually (freecreditcheck.com) as well as through most banking and credit card agencies. Take advantage of this easy opportunity to see if any unusual or unfamiliar activity has taken place so it can be addressed.

Trust your instincts and verify information from trusted loved ones

Some of the most successful scams out there rely on tugging on heartstrings (a grandson in jail requiring bail or a favorite niece needing money because she’s stranded on a vacation) and wiring money that becomes untraceable. For this reason, seniors should always trust their instincts and tell the caller they need to verify information – asking them for a return number. In real life, this is reasonable; in fraud life, they’ll be told it isn’t possible to call them back or the caller will become high-pressure or belligerent – all signs the caller is a criminal.

By taking a moment to verify facts and check in with a trusted family member, elders are less likely to be taken advantage of.

Never hire unlicensed home care aids or agencies

Unfortunately, financial abuse is most likely to come from those who have close contact and proximity with a vulnerable senior. Only hire licensed caregivers and agencies, preferably working for a licensed, experienced, reputable agency. Make sure they have passed background checks and check in regularly so you’re able to suss out if anything unusual or suspicious is going on.

Warning Signs Of Financial Fraud Against Seniors

Some of the warning signs seniors are being abused financially or are at higher risk of becoming victims of financial fraud include:

  • Mental or financial frailty (this puts them at major risk)
  • Living alone
  • A relative or new friend appears out of the woodwork and is suspiciously invested in taking care of or spending time with your loved one.
  • Increased mail or calls requesting donations for organizations you’re not familiar with or have never heard them speak about in the past (can indicate they’ve donated money and are now on a shared list)
  • Their bank account is overdrawn and/or credit cards are maxed out for no obvious reason

Any one of these is cause for alarm and for further investigation.

Worried your loved one may be vulnerable or lacks the cognitive ability to manage his/her own finances and daily responsibilities? HomeAide Home Care is a licensed, homecare agency, specializing in protecting seniors and keeping them in the comfort of their home. Contact us for a free, in-home consultation and we’ll help you create a safe and secure long-term plan for your loved one.

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