Protect Those You Love
Each year, thousands of elderly people across the United States are financially abused and exploited. According to a MetLife study, it’s estimated that older Americans lose a combined $2.6 billion or more annually as a result of financial abuse and exploitation. Furthermore, over half of those crimes are committed by someone the victim knows personally, such as a friend, relative, or neighbor. It’s critical that you educate the elderly people in your life on the different warning signs, and also raise awareness in your family and community to promote a better understanding of how to prevent elder abuse and exploitation.
Types of Financial Abuse
- Theft: Offenders may take assets such as cash, heirlooms, and other valuables without the owner’s permission. This can be common when an elderly person is moved out of their home and into a care center.
- Fraud: Older people may be taken advantage of by having their signatures forged on documents, tricked into signing documents without reading them, or fooled by Ponzi schemes.
- Electronic: Elderly people with limited technology knowledge may be tricked into downloading viruses, handing over bank credentials through email, and transferring money over unprotected websites.
- Real Estate: Offenders may trick an elderly person into signing over the deed to their property, signing a mortgage with a high interest rate, or forging a deed with the county recorder’s office.
- Identity Theft: Abusers may steal the victim’s credit history to take out loans, use the victim’s identity to obtain medical care, or use their identity when committing other crimes.
Who to Watch Out For
- Family Members: Many crimes of elderly financial abuse are committed by relatives. Children may try to guilt their parents into giving them money or letting them see sensitive documents. They may feel entitled to an inheritance and try to help themselves. Grandchildren, siblings, and even spouses may also be offenders.
- Caregivers: In-home nurses and nursing home caretakers may be tempted to take advantage of elderly people by stealing valuables and account information. It’s important to do a rigorous screening before deciding on a caregiver.
- Neighbors: Neighbors may also take advantage of older people, especially if they are in the home frequently to help perform chores and other household help. They also may feel as if they should be compensated for their work.
- Professionals: Dishonest lawyers, insurance professionals, and financial advisors may also find ways to cheat the elderly into giving away cash and financial information. It’s important to choose a trustworthy, well-respected company to help you manage your properties and finances.
- If there are large withdrawals on the elder’s bank statement or cash missing from the safe, it’s important to catch it right away to help you get the money back as soon as possible
- Unusual credit card use can be a sign of identity theft or credit card fraud. Also make sure no other authorized users have been added to the elder’s credit card, which could be a sign that fraud is taking place.
- Missing possessions and heirlooms from the elder’s property can be a sign the abuse is coming from someone close to the elder. Also be sure to question where any new possessions came from, as they could have been bought with the elder’s money without them knowing.
What to Do
- Call your state’s Adult Protective Services agency if you suspect an elderly individual you know may be victim to financial abuse. They can pair with local law enforcement to catch the offender and protect the elder.
- Create an FTC Identity Theft Report if you suspect an elder has fallen victim to identity theft. After you have filed the report and contacted law enforcement, contact credit bureaus and bank(s) to notify them of the identity breach.
- Contact the nursing home manager or care service agency if you suspect one of their employees is financially abusing an elderly person you know. They will be able to conduct an investigation and catch the offender.
It’s important to sit down with the elderly people in your life and help educate them on the financial dangers out there. Teach them how to properly use the Internet, help them get a safe for their confidential documents, and be involved in the process when they are working with their lawyer or insurance agent. Anyone can be a victim of financial elder abuse, and it’s important to raise awareness on this issue. Lincoln Savings Bank is here to help you protect your finances throughout retirement.
Lincoln Savings Bank, Member FDIC.