Elder financial abuse is defined in the Older Americans Act of 2006 as:
“The fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual for monetary or personal benefit, profit or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use of, benefits, resources, belongings, or assets.”
Financial abuse can take place in many ways, ranging from investment scams, stolen jewelry and bogus lottery schemes to forged checks, identity theft and credit card misuse. Unfortunately, most perpetrators of senior financial abuse aren’t strangers to them and view them as easy prey. Guard yourself or loved ones against financial exploitation by knowing the warning signs and what to do if you spot them.
It’s estimated that older adults lose more than $36 billion every year to scams and fraud. Half of that money is lost due to tactics that are legal, albeit deceptive in nature. Experts predict that the problem is going to dramatically worsen as the aging Baby Boomer population retires, while nearly 37% of seniors in the U.S. have already experienced some form of financial abuse.
HOW THIS CAN HELP SENIORS:
Know what signs to look for
The key to spotting financial abuse is a change in a person’s established financial patterns. These red flags include: Unusual activity in bank accounts, ATM withdrawals when a debit card was never used, New “best friends” accompanying to the bank, Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills and many more.
Know what preventative measures can be taken
Speak to an attorney or financial advisor about your best options. Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers. Carefully select a trustworthy person to act as your agent. Never give your SSN, account number or other financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
Know what to do in the case abuse does occur
If you suspect elder financial abuse, don’t hesitate to confront the perpetrator and get the proper authorities involved. Theft should be reported to law enforcement officials, and there are local and state social services agencies in every state to help elderly victims of financial abuse. The National Center on Elder Abuse (ncea.aoa.gov) can point residents in every state to an elder abuse hotline.
QUICK TIPS FOR ENSURING A SAFER HOME FOR SENIORS:
TIP #1 – Protect yourself and your home. Be sure your aging relative can work their locks properly. Seniors can be targets of break-ins and theft so preventative measures are key.
TIP #2 – Keep an eye and nose out for waste. Check for trash buildup and bad smells. It is not uncommon for some elderly people to become unable to carry heavy trash or unclog toilets on their own. Look for signs of hoarding or excess waste.
TIP #3 – Build a close circle of family and friends. One of the biggest risks to a senior’s mortality rate is isolation. Maintaining a healthy social life is a great way to stay safe, active and healthy in a community where they feel appreciated and loved.
TIP #4 – Get tested for pneumococcal. The CDC also recommends pneumococcal vaccines for those 65 or older. These protect against diseases seniors are more susceptible to like pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections.