Preventing Elder and Vulnerable Adult Financial Abuse
A Growing Concern
Distressing. It's a word that describes the fact older Americans are losing about $12.8 billion every year to people who take advantage of their vulnerabilities – and that's only for the cases actually reported.* It’s called elder financial fraud, and it’s occurring more frequently every year.
Who's victimizing older Americans? It could be anyone. Perpetrators could include any of the following:*
- Family members and caregivers
- Friends, neighbors or acquaintances
- Persons with Power of Attorney or the legal authority to access and/or manage your money
- Telephone and mail scammers
- Business professionals
- Internet scammers
- Home repair contractors
- Medicare / Medicaid scam operators
- Other persons known or unknown to the older adult
It's a growing concern. It's very important if you become aware of potential fraud situations or if you suspect a friend or neighbor is being taken advantage of – step up and report this to local authorities or someone else who can help.
Know the signs of financial exploitation
Help protect older family members, vulnerable adults, and friends from financial fraud. It's important to know what to look for:
- Sudden reluctance to discuss financial matters
- Sudden, atypical or unexplained withdrawals, wire transfers, or other changes in their financial situations
- Utility or other bills not being paid
- New best friends and "sweethearts"
- Onset or worsening of illnesses or disability
- Behavioral changes, such as fear or submissiveness, social isolation, withdrawn behavior, disheveled appearance, and forgetfulness
- Changes in the will, especially when they might not fully understand the implications
- Sudden increase in spending by their family or friends
- Transfer of title of home or other assets to another person for no apparent reason
- Large, frequent "gifts" given to a caregiver
- Personal belongings missing
- Large, unexplained loans taken out by an elder
Steps to help avoid financial abuse
Here are some things to consider to help protect yourself from financial abuse:
- Review the power of attorney and be sure the person can be trusted; consider adding checks and balances by having a trusted advisor, such as family member or tax professional, receive and review duplicate account statements.
- Do not make major financial decisions without consulting several trusted people, such as relatives and financial professionals.
- Have checks (such as Social Security checks) directly deposited.
- Use automatic bill pay.
- Communicate with the bank.
- Hire a geriatric care manager.
- Check references for anyone who is hired to provide care.
- Keep in touch with friends and family members and be wary of anyone who tries to limit your contact with others.
- Don't give your credit card to others.
- Shred bank statements, credit card offers and other financial documents before throwing them away.
- Don’t provide your personal or financial information, including Social Security numbers and online passwords, to anyone if you did not initiate the contact.
- Register your residential and wireless phone numbers on the national Do-not-call registry at donotcall.gov.
- Be cautious of others who offer to help you with your financial matters.
- Consider the benefits of working with a corporate trustee.
Report elder financial abuse
Use the Administration on Aging's locator tools to find your local or state agency.
Find a local agency
Contact a state agency
- National Association of Area Agencies on Aging – This agency advocates for member agencies, the elderly, and caregivers.
- Federal Trade Commission – On this site you can order a free packet complete with scam description factsheets and bookmarks.
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