Financial Exploitation of Older Adults
As financial exploitation targeting older adults continues to become more prevalent in the United States, the national Eldercare Locator announced today that it has launched a campaign to encourage older adults and their families to address this critical issue and to get informed about the warning signs and resources available to help prevent exploitation. Research shows that as many as 5 million older adults are victims of elder abuse each year and financial exploitation costs seniors an estimated $3 billion annually.
As part of its 10th Annual Home for the Holidays campaign, the Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging that is administered by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a), is encouraging older adults, caregivers and their families to use their time together this holiday season to discuss and get informed about strategies to prevent financial exploitation. The National Center on Elder Abuse has partnered with the Eldercare Locator to produce a consumer guide that is now available to help inform this discussion. The guide is available at www.n4a.org.
"Financial exploitation is a threat to the health, safety, dignity and independence of vulnerable older adults," said Kathy Greenlee, Assistant Secretary for Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services "This holiday season, we encourage families to spend some time asking older family members some basic questions to ensure that their finances are in good hands and that if there are signs of abuse, that the right steps are taken to stop it."
"Financial exploitation of older adults can take many forms and can come in many guises including telemarketing scams, identity theft, fake check scams, home repair fraud, and even “sweetheart scams” whereby a con artist befriends or romances an isolated lonely older adult to gain control over their finances. Unfortunately, financial exploitation can often be committed by a person you know and trust—a friend, caregiver or even a family member, which makes it even more difficult," said Sandy Markwood, CEO, n4a. "There are steps older adults and their families can take and resources available to help identify and remedy this serious problem. To ensure your safety and the safety and security of your finances, it is critical for you to assess your financial situation on a regular basis. We are seeing more and more financial abuse across the country which is why this holiday season, we hope families will check in with their older relatives to be sure that their finances are in good order and in good hands."
There are several signs of financial exploitation for families to look out for, including financial activity that is inconsistent with an older adults past financial history, multiple withdrawals within a short time period; inconsistent signatures on documents; confusion about recent financial arrangements; new names added to accounts or other changes to key documents that have not been authorized; a caregiver or beneficiary who refuses to use designated funds for necessary care and treatment of an older adult and an older adult who feels uncomfortable or even threatened by a caregiver or another individual who is seeking to control their finances.
Families that are concerned about financial exploitation should report the issue to state agencies that deal with protecting the safety and well-being of older adults. The campaign, which encourages older adults and their families to plan and be cautious, released tips to help prevent financial exploitation, some of which include:
--Learn how to avoid fraud and scams at ww.stopfraud.gov/protect.html.
--Consult with a trusted person before making any large purchases or investments.
--Do not provide personal information (i.e. Social Security number, credit card, ATM PIN number) over the phone unless you placed the call and know with whom you are speaking.
--If you hire someone to help you in your home, ensure that they have been properly screened with criminal background checks completed. Ask for certifications when appropriate.
--Talk with an attorney about creating a durable power of attorney for asset management; a living will; a revocable, or living, trust; and health care advance directives.
“Financial Exploitation can be prevented if people know the right questions to ask and where to turn for help, said Mary Twomey, Director, National Center on Elder Abuse. “Although it is a sensitive issue and one that can be difficult to broach, it is critical for families to address it, and there are many useful resources available to guide them through the process.”