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Protecting Seniors from Financial Abuse

Daughter helping mother do online banking

Be organized, proactive, and aware to protect yourself, family and friends from financial abuse. Older Americans are increasingly becoming targets for fraud and financial exploitation. Most elder financial abuse involves scams, forgery, identity theft, or undue pressure to give someone access to property or funds by simply providing information over the phone. Fraudsters tell lies, make threats and use emotional manipulation to carry out their scams. Older adults are often targeted for such exploitation because they may be perceived as trusting, they may be cognitively impaired, they may have more funds available after a lifetime of saving, and potentially less exposure to technological advances.


Tips for Protecting Finances

Seniors can protect themselves from financial abuse by making sure financial records are organized and being aware of how much money is in all accounts. In addition, you can protect your assets by talking to someone at your bank, an attorney, or a financial advisor to discuss your options for ensuring your wishes for managing your money and property are followed in the event you become incapacitated. 
Other activities to help protect yourself include:

  • Carefully choosing a trustworthy person to share your financial planning matters with so they can assist you with tracking your finances if you are unable to do so yourself.
  • Locking up your checkbook, account statements, and other sensitive information.
  • Ordering copies of your credit report to review for suspicious activity. (You are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once every twelve months. To order your free annual reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com or call toll- free 1-877-322-8228.)
  • Never providing personal information, including your Social Security number, account numbers, or other financial information to anyone over the phone.
  • Asking for details in writing and getting a second opinion from a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
  • Paying with checks and credit cards instead of cash to have records of transactions.

 

Banks are well-positioned to detect, prevent and report elder financial abuse

  • Banks are continuously enhancing their capacity to spot elder financial abuse through on-going training and enhanced fraud detection technologies.
  • According to a 2017 ABA survey1, 71 percent of all respondent banks require additional, specialized training for frontline staff to help spot elder financial abuse.
  • Frontline staff members observe and engage customers on a daily basis, enabling them to serve as one of the first lines of defense.
  • Banks maintain a wide variety of internal protocols and procedures to protect customers from financial abuse.
  • The types of warning signs bankers look for include unusual account activity, unpaid bills or eviction notices, suspicious signatures, new “best friends,” and new powers of attorney or altered wills. 


Tips for Family and Friends

Family and friends can also help by being aware of the many ways in which an older person may be financially exploited. There are many scams and frauds that attempt to get bank account information or Social Security numbers from the elderly to steal their identity or money. Be on the lookout for signs of possible financial abuse, including:

  • Unexplained account withdrawals.
  • Another individual unexpectedly making financial decisions on the older person’s behalf.
  • Disappearance of funds or valuable possessions.
  • Unanticipated transfer of assets to another individual.
  • Sudden changes to a will or other important financial documents.
  • Suspicious signatures on checks.

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 the 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.
  • Call the Victim Connect Hotline at 1-855-484-2846 or the Eldercare Locator helpline at 1-800-677-1116. 

For more information, visit: PreventElderFinancialAbuse.org 

 

Sources:
1 2017 Older Americans Benchmarking Report: Findings from a Survey of Banks. Retrieved from https://www.aba.com/Engagement/Documents/2017-Older-Americans-Benchmark-Report.pdf
Federal Trade Commission
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2015/08/spotting-elder-financial-abuse
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), April 2019
https://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/april2019.html 

 

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