Senior financial abuse is a growing concern for older Americans, with thousands affected each year. But what exactly is it, what if it happens to you or your loved one, and how can it be avoided?
What is senior financial abuse?
Senior financial abuse occurs when one’s money or property is taken or misused for the benefit of someone else, often by someone they trust.
For instance, a neighbor who helps around the house might take money without permission, a family member might refuse to repay money owed, a landscaper might overcharge for services or do half the job they were hired to do, and so on.
This type of financial exploitation can come in many different forms, but more often than not, it can be prevented ahead of time.
How can it be avoided?
It’s easy to think you won’t be a victim of fraudulent activity. However, hackers and fraudsters have evolved over the years, using new tactics in order to take advantage of older audiences. According to the American Bankers Association, senior financial abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $2.9 billion in 2021 alone.
The following tips can help you avoid this kind of financial abuse:
- Think ahead when protecting your assets. Formulate a plan with your attorney, financial institution, or advisor about what options work best for you.
- Cut or shred receipts, bank statements, expired credit cards, or any identifying paperwork before throwing them out to ensure no one can access your account information.
- Keep your checkbook, financial statements, and other sensitive information in a secure place that only you and one or two others know about.
- Avoid rushing into any financial decisions, especially if someone is pressuring you.
- Never provide confidential information, such as Social Security Number, bank account number, credit card number, etc., over the phone or to someone you do not know or trust.
- Look into home care assistance and work with a trustworthy bookkeeping service, such as Senior Servant Bookkeeping Concierge Service offered by Landis at Home.
- Be careful what you open in your emails. Do not click on links in emails from people you don’t know. If you are not sure if the email is legitimate, look for email addresses that don’t match the subject matter or company it is supposed to be coming from or call the company it is supposed to be and ask (do not call numbers in emails).
- Avoid giving out personal information to companies over the phone or email (they generally will not ask for personal information this way).
- If someone does get into your computer or phone, do not do what they ask (i.e. buy gift cards and give them the information). Instead, hang up and call the police and your bank/credit card company right away.
- Go with your gut! If something seems too good to be true or doesn’t feel right, it’s probably best to avoid it.
What are warning signs that your loved one might be a victim?
While there are many red flags to look out for, the key is first noticing a change in their overall financial patterns.
Some warning signs include:
- Uncommon or unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money, especially if they’re accompanied by another adult.
- Abrupt changes in financial documentation or will.
- Obscure transfer of funds or assets to someone who wouldn’t normally receive them.
- Additional names listed on their financial accounts with permissions that allow them to withdraw funds
- Missing valuable possessions or significant funds with no explanation.
- Unpaid bills even though they have adequate funds to afford them.
- Inclusion or appearance of previously uninvolved relatives or friends.
What if it happens?
Coming to terms with the fact that you are a victim of financial abuse can be a frightening realization. From trying to get the money back to changing account information and so on, it might seem like there are a million things to do over a short period of time.
That said, do not fret! Talk to family members you trust and contact your attorney, doctor, or bank immediately. They’ll be able to help you throughout the process and provide further insight to avoid this situation in the future. You’ll also want to contact protective services in your state or the local police for additional help. Resources and helplines for Pennsylvania victims can be found here.
Landis at Home offers multiple reliable concierge services to choose from in Lancaster, PA including a bookkeeping service to help you with your bill paying and money management needs. We’re here to help you thrive at home. Contact us today to hear more about the services we provide!