Every year, authorities in the United States receive more than 334,000 reports of elder financial exploitation. According to an analysis of state and federal data conducted by Comparitech, a cybersecurity research organization, this results in about $6.3 billion in damages. Despite the pandemic’s financial toll, elder care subsidies are continuing to rise.
These figures are likely to underestimate a problem that experts believe goes virtually unnoticed.
Elder fraud, on the other hand, may be caught early on, according to specialists. To protect yourself or a loved one from financial abuse, follow these actions.
1. Assign the financial power to someone you can trust
“We don’t want to discuss money.” It’s personal. Julie Schoen, director-in-charge of the National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, says, “We need to change the way we think about it.”
Instead of using standard power-of-attorney forms, create one that is tailored to your needs and, in the best-case scenario, with the help of an attorney. (You may use the Federal Government’s Eldercare Locator to get low-cost or no-cost legal assistance.)
Perhaps you want your legal representatives to handle all financial matters for you, or perhaps you want them to file taxes or manage the property. Make a list of your options, whatever they are.
2. Name a person you can trust to handle your investment accounts and accounts
An authorized contact is someone you give a bank or financial institution permission to contact in the case of suspicious activity on your account or if they are unable to reach you. A trusted person may get detailed information about your account from the company. They are not, however, permitted to do business.
Another approach is to provide access to your accounts to someone you trust. Account holders who have a view-only account may see your transactions but not conduct business or access your cash.
This is a safer option to creating a joint account. Both partners may withdraw funds, and in the case of your death, the account is immediately passed to them.
“Never add anyone to your bank account or your home title,” urges Joanne Savage, an attorney with AARP for the Elderly’s Legal Counsel, which provides free legal assistance to seniors in Washington, D.C.
To learn more about incorporating a trusted contract or an access-only account, contact your broker or bank or go to their website. When consumers establish or upgrade accounts, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a non-governmental body that oversees brokerage companies and their members, mandates that they produce a credible account holder.
3. Sign up for a service that keeps track of your assets, bank accounts, and credit cards for you
Suspicious behaviors, such as withdrawals from accounts that aren’t in order or unexpected changes in spending patterns, may be detected by technology solutions like EverSafe and LifeLock, which can inform you and a trusted advocate.
They safeguard you against more than just fraud, scams, and identity theft. They also aid in the recovery of any damages. If you are a victim of fraud, for example, they can walk you through the actions you need to take to report the fraud and minimize your losses. In addition, if you are a victim of identity theft, EverSafe will cover your legal fees.
4. Maintain contact with your elderly relatives
Due to life events such as retirement or the death of others, aging causes a loss of contact. According to the NCEA, social isolation, whether induced by life circumstances or geographical distance created by the COVID-19 pandemic, is one of the most important risk factors for elder financial exploitation.
Regular video and phone visits, messages, emails, and phone conversations will keep you in contact with your loved ones. Encourage them to stay involved in their religious groups, volunteer activities, and any other social engagements.
Keep an eye out for anybody who asks for your trust. It might be someone who communicates with family or friends. Or seems to have excessive influence over financial choices, or solicits big sums of money.
Scammers forming friendships with elderly people in order to defraud them of money is a typical occurrence. They groom the children of the victims.
Their only objective is to extort money from their gullible senior acquaintances. “They’re looking for weaknesses in older people,” says Kristin Burki, Director of the National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life (NCALL). Be conscious of the connections that exist in an older person’s life.”
5. Find out who your loved one’s caretakers are
Use an approved agency if you need to seek home care for a loved one. They will go through a thorough screening process and take action if theft happens.
Check up with the caregiver after they’ve been employed to make sure they’re still doing a good job. How do they care for them, for example? Do they clean and cook on a regular basis? Do they have the necessary qualifications to give medications?
Bonnie Brandl, co-founder and previous director of NCALL, adds, “They’re much less inclined to profit from Mother now that they know you’re paying them.” So, if you’re worried about your existing caregiver, start searching for a replacement right now.