Financial abuse of the elderly has been increasing over the years, and is an incredibly under-reported problem. Seniors who aren’t sure how to seek reliable financial help are becoming the victims of financial swindles perpetrated by family members, caregivers, scams by strangers, even by accountants, doctors, etc. Elder financial abuse can be defined as either crimes of opportunity, crimes of desperation, or crimes of predation. These crimes can take the form of:
- Forged signatures and forged checks
- Stolen money, credit cards, bank account information
- Overcharging and deceptive financial acts
- Getting a senior to sign papers through deception
- Telemarketing scams, email scams, and other cons
- Physical assault, mugging
If you have elderly family members, they are at risk of financial abuse and must take safety precautions to protect against financial fraud. Make sure they keep all their important documents and check books, credit cards, etc in a safe place. Seek out a financial advisor for them from only a well-known company, or have only one close, trustworthy family member help your elderly loved one with their finances, and entrust no one else with access to any of their documents or money. Talk to them about the importance of never following through with any phone calls, emails, letters or TV ads advertising financial assistance unless they know for a fact it is a legitimate company. And if your senior needs to travel somewhere and has visible vulnerabilities such as a cane or handicap tag hanging in their vehicle, make sure a family member goes with them.
If you have an elderly family member you feel is susceptible or suspect may currently be a victim of financial abuse, these factors can help you determine whether to seek help:
- A pattern of unpaid bills, notices to discontinue utilities, etc
- Bank statements and other regular financial mail no longer being received at the senior’s home
- Unexplained bank withdrawals and/or transfers
- Family members or caregivers expressing excessive interest in the senior’s finances
- Belongings/property is missing
- Little amount of financial documentation
- Senior is confused or unaware of their current financial arrangements
If any of these factors apply to the senior in question, there are steps you can take to seek help on his or her behalf. You can order a background check on suspected caregivers, make sure your loved one doesn’t leave important mail in an unsecured mailbox, take photos and create records of valuables and keep them in a safe place, assist in checking the senior’s credit reports, get Caller ID on their telephone and sign them up for the National Do Not Call registry, and arrange for financial documents to be sent to a trusted family member or financial advisor to regularly check for fraud.
If you would like to learn more about how our caregivers can help your loved one prevent senior fraud, give us a call at (805) 934-0600 or email us via our contact form.