According to the National Council on Aging, almost 90 percent of the financial abuse committed against older Americans is done by someone they know. More than ever, it is imperative for seniors to select a trustworthy person to properly manage their finances and personal affairs.
Fraudsters often prey on seniors experiencing cognitive decline, limited mobility and other disabilities that require them to rely more heavily on others for help. Appointing someone you trust to handle your financial matters aids tremendously in the fight against these crimes.
In recognition of May as Older Americans Month, we want to share seven tips to help choose the right financial caregiver and prevent financial abuse:
- When delegating financial decisions, make sure it’s someone you trust. If you are unable to facilitate financial transactions, carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all financial matters.
- Know who is in your home. Conduct a thorough background check on all individuals you hire for personal care or home care services. Check references and credentials before you let them into your personal space.
- Never sign something you don’t understand. Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document that appears suspicious or unclear.
- Understand the terms of assigning a Power of Attorney. Granting someone POA gives them the authority to act and make decisions on your behalf, including managing and having access to your bank and other financial accounts. Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of consenting a legal agent before you do so.
- Always trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers are very skilled. They can be very charming and forceful in their efforts to exploit you. Don’t be fooled – if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be.
- Safeguard your personal information. Shred old bills, junk mail, bank statements and other personal documents you no longer need. Leaving unwanted personal documents around the house could lead to the misuse of your information. If you come across keepsake documents opt to store them in a locked cabinet or safe deposit box at your nearest bank.
- Keep personal items out of plain sight. Lock up checkbooks, credit cards and other monetary instruments to prevent unauthorized use.Resource information provided by the American Bankers Association.
Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of abuse committed against older Americans. According to a Metlife study, an estimated $2.9 billion is lost annually to scams explicitly targeting seniors. The American Bankers Association Foundation is urging older Americans and their caregivers to join the fight against financial abuse and take active steps to protect their finances from fraud.
“Older Americans currently hold more than two-thirds of all U.S. deposits, making them highly susceptible to scams, exploitation and abuse,” said Corey Carlisle, ABA Foundation executive director. “It’s critical that seniors and their loved ones recognize the signs of financial abuse before it’s too late and get help immediately if they think they’ve been victimized.”
To help older Americans and their caregivers protect themselves or their loved ones from financial abuse, the ABA Foundation is offering the following tips:
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters. Select someone who has your best interest at heart.
- Never give personal information, including your Social Security, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
- Stay alert to common fraud schemes. Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances and make sure to lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
- You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you believe you are a victim of elder financial abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services, tell someone at your bank or call your local police for help.
Resource information provided by the American Banker’s Association
The next time you receive a frantic call from someone saying they are your grandchild and asking for money, make sure it’s actually your grandchild who’s calling.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2016, impersonation scams ranked second as the most common consumer complaint, with more than 400,000 reported. The “grandparent scam,” is a form of financial abuse that deliberately targets older Americans using impersonation tactics.
To commit this crime, fraudsters call claiming to be a family member in serious trouble and in need of money immediately. The scammer might say he’s stranded or has been mugged, and call in the middle of the night to add to the urgency and confusion. Once the money is wired, the victim later finds out that it wasn’t their grandchild they were helping, it was a criminal.
In recognition of May as Older Americans Month, Stock Yards Bank & Trust offers older Americans these tips to help them prevent impersonation fraud:
- Confirm the caller. Fraudsters are using social networking sites to gain the personal information of friends and relatives to carry out their crimes. Verify the caller by calling them back on a known number or consult a trusted family member before acting on any request.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Fraudsters want to execute their crimes quickly. The more questions you ask the more inclined they will be to ditch the scam if they suspect you’re on to them.
- Never give personal information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
- Never rush into a financial decision and trust your instincts. Don’t be fooled – if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. Feel free to say no and get more information before you send money to someone.
Resource Information Provided by the American Bankers Association