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Elderly Financial Abuse

What is Elder Financial Abuse?

Elder financial abuse is a crime that can rob older adults of their resources and independence.

If you see signs of theft, fraud, or misuse concerning a person's assets or credit, or observe someone projecting a controlling influence over an older person's money or property, be on alert. These are all signs of exploitation.

The elderly often rely on others for help. This makes them more susceptible to scams and fraud. As well, technology creates additional challenges and difficulties for seniors.

Here are some ways to safeguard personal information and be aware of the warning signs:

Tips for Seniors

How to protect yourself?

  • Make plans for asset protection by taking with someone at your financial institution, a financial advisor or an attorney.
  • Always shred important documents such as receipts, bank statements or credit card offers before disposal.
  • Choose carefully those who will act as your agent concerning estate-planning matters.
  • Lock up sensitive information such as checkbooks, account statements, social security cards, etc.
  • View your credit report annually to ensure accuracy.
  • Never give out personal information like social security or account numbers over the phone unless you initiated the call and are sure the other party is a trusted source.
  • Never pay a fee for lottery or sweepstakes "winnings."
  • Do not rush into financial decisions. Get everything in writing and get a second opinion.
  • If you don't understand a document, do not sign it before consulting a financial advisor or attorney.
  • Always check references before hiring someone and don't allow workers access to your financial information.
  • Don't be afraid to say "No." It is your money and your right.
  • Keep a transaction paper trail by paying with checks or credit cards instead of cash.
  • Build a relationship with your bank and the people who handle your finances.
  • Exploiters and abusers are crafty. If you feel pressured or threatened, call your local Adult Protective Services or tell someone at your bank, church or doctor.
  • Don't be fooled...if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

Tips for Family & Friends

What to look for?

  • Unusual financial activity like large or frequent unexplained withdrawals.
  • Use of an ATM or debit card when they have never used one before.
  • An older person being accompanied by a "helper" that is unfamiliar.
  • Unusual non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
  • Attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • A display of confusion, lack of awareness or fear.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks or forgery.
  • Unexplainable transfer activity on accounts.
  • Checks written as "loans" or "gifts."
  • Altered wills or trusts.
  • Caretakers, relatives or friends trying to conduct financial transactions for the person without proper documentation.

What to do?

  • Be observant and talk with elderly friends or loved ones to determine if such signs exist.
  • Report suspected financial elderly abuse to their financial institution to prevent further occurences.
  • Contact your local Adult Protective Services for help.
  • Report it to the police.

Remember...

Never give your Social Security number, account number or any other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.