Protecting Seniors from Financial Abuse

Our inboxes are filled with tempting messages to “click here” for savings and frightening demands to “call now” to avoid financial ruin. It’s a dizzying array of mixed messaging that has only one purpose – to scam the individual receiving the message by phone or email. Protecting yourself and your aging loved one from financial abuse online – or in the home - starts with being aware and being involved.

Financial scams targeting seniors continue to devastate older adults, often leaving them unable to recoup their losses. In 2022, over 88,000 complaints resulted in $3.1 Billion in losses for people aged 60 and older. It is important to be aware of the scams that exist and take steps to protect yourself and your aging parents.

protect from financial abuse

5 Ways to Protect from Financial Abuse

  1. Have a trustworthy POA
  2. Shred financial paperwork
  3. Lock up financial documents
  4. Review statements
  5. Know who comes into the house

1. Choose your Power of Attorney Wisely

When considering your options for Power of Attorney, think about the most trustworthy people in your life. Your oldest child might seem like the expected choice, but what if your youngest is the most fiscally responsible? Now is not the time to worry about hurt feelings.

Older adults without children (or without responsible children) need to consider options within their friend group, a trusted relative, or retain the services of an attorney to ensure financial protection. The individual chosen as Power of Attorney has access to all areas of your life and will act on your behalf when you are no longer able. Take your time and choose wisely.

2. Invest in a shredder to protect yourself from financial abuse.

There is no reason to keep piles of papers with financial information in your home. Most accounts can be safeguarded and password-protected online. For the adult child trying to protect an aging loved one from a distance, technology can be your friend.

Shred It and Forget It

Receipts

Bank statements

Credit card offers

If you must receive paper copies of financial information, scan the information into a computer file and shred the original. This applies to any paperwork you receive with financial information – investment account statements, credit card statements, and bank statements. Don’t forget to shred credit card offers that come in the mail to avoid having someone else apply in your name.

3. Keep important financial documents secure.

Most of us don’t use our checkbooks every day (or ever!) so it’s a good idea to keep all checks locked up. The same for any credit cards that aren’t going to be used regularly. For the aging parent who always demands access to a credit or debit card, keep the available balance low and unlinked to other accounts that hold significant funds.

All financial and estate planning documents can be secured in the same place. However, always let your Power of Attorney know where they are and how to access them when needed. Keep the location of these documents on a “need to know” basis to ensure they stay protected.

protect from financial abuse

4. Take time to review bank and credit card statements regularly.

Incidental charges on bank and credit cards are getting out of hand. Streaming services, monthly banking fees, and other seemingly innocuous hits to bank accounts can add up. Additionally, watch for charges that can’t be traced back to a service or product you or your aging parent purchased (extra cell phones, for example).

For a nominal monthly fee, services like LifeLock can help keep an eye on your loved one’s financial and personal data. When setting up the account, ensure that the financial Power of Attorney has access and can check in regularly. For an adult child living in another state or country, having easy access to this information online can be extra peace of mind.

5. Be aware of people coming in and out of the home.

Unfortunately, family members are most likely to financially abuse an elderly person. Unfortunately, a family member often can get away with the abuse because the senior is unlikely to report it. If you have an aging parent who lives far away, a trusted Power of Attorney or case manager can regularly check in and look for signs of financial abuse.

Signs of Financial Abuse

Forged signature on checks

Large bank withdrawals or transfers

Missing belongings or property

Rerouted checks or bank statements

New changes to a Will or Power of Attorney

It’s important to stay connected with aging loved ones whether they live across town or across the country. A senior who appears isolated from family and friends is more likely to become a target for financial abuse. If you are concerned about the financial abuse of a senior, what can you do? Through technology like Ring cameras or the personal touch of private duty caregivers available in the home, make a statement that your aging parent is not alone.

How Can Financial Abuse Be Prevented?

One way to prevent financial abuse is to just be aware. Know the people who are coming in and out of the home, such as service providers and routine maintenance. If you schedule a service call for the air conditioner, cable, or other routine service, have a trusted friend, family member, or caregiver present. This can reduce chances of being targeted as an isolated senior.

There are so many good people in the world, but unfortunately, cases involving elder financial abuse continue to rise. Create a safe environment for your senior loved one by involving people and resources that reduce isolation and increase opportunities for socialization – a proven deterrent for most perpetrators.

You are Not Alone

With a strong village of senior service providers, seniors can find the help they need to age successfully. It is never too early to create a thoughtful aging plan that outlines a path to protect your financial future. From estate planning to case management, find an Elder Law Attorney who can protect your legacy whether you have children near, far, or not at all.

protect from financial abuse

There is no need to live in fear. Take the steps you need to protect yourself and your loved ones. And, if you find yourself in a position of being exploited, report it to a trusted family member, your Elder Law Attorney, or local authorities.

Florida Toll-Free Hotline: 1-866-9-NO-SCAM

Protecting legacies and developing relationships that last a lifetime are two reasons Elder Law Attorneys are one of the invaluable Resources We Love. Learn more about how they can help people of all ages develop aging plans and enter retirement with peace of mind in the Legal and Financial Section of our Blog.

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