Besides the threat of elder abuse and neglect, the family members of seniors also need to be on guard for the signs of financial abuse. Seniors are the targets of many scams that take advantage of their trusting nature or their unfamiliarity with new technology. At the Law Firm of Steve Watrel, P.A., we speak with many older adults and their family members about these issues. Here are four strategies that can help prevent the financial exploitation of seniors.
Talk to Your Older Family Members About Basic Fraud Protection Tactics
Every fraud scheme is a little different, and they’re all designed to fool people into thinking the scam is legitimate. Family members can help protect older relatives by teaching them basic tactics that make them less likely to be the victim of fraud. To prevent impersonation scams where someone pretends to be a relative in help, remind your family member to speak to your family to find out if the person in question is actually out of town and in need of assistance.
Never give any personal information to strangers over the telephone. Never give out information to someone on the phone, such as birthdates, social security numbers (even the last four digits), or bank account information. This information can be used as a way to bypass online passwords or identify accounts that belong to the individual. And never make decisions over the phone quickly. If someone is trying to rush you into making a payment or sign a document, it’s probably a scam. Legitimate charities and services would give you time to make a decision or to double-check with someone else before signing an agreement or making a payment.
Share Information About Scams You Read About
One of the challenges of preventing senior financial exploitation is the fact that scams are changing all the time. As soon as one tactic stops working, scammers move on to the next one. Family members should work together to make sure everyone is aware of the latest scams that target seniors. If you see a news article about a new type of fraud that targets seniors, share it with your family members. Staying up to date on the latest news about scams that target seniors will ensure your family member is prepared and that caregivers know what signs to look for to see if their loved ones have been victims.
Prepare Essential Legal Documentation Beforehand
Senior financial exploitation can happen when family members don’t take precautions and set up systems to handle issues that come up. The family members of seniors don’t automatically gain access to their relative’s finances, which can become a problem if you suspect fraud or exploitation. Families can prepare for this by ensuring that older family members have the essential legal documents in place that will enable the appropriate family members to help if they need it. Consumer Reports recommends these documents include things like the will, a healthcare proxy, a HIPAA release form, and durable power of attorney. The latter is essential when someone needs to be in charge of paying the bills and managing the finances of an older adult who can no longer do so. Talking about these issues beforehand can prevent costly delays later when you need to act on a relative’s behalf to combat financial abuse. Additionally, having these discussions early prevents trusted person abuse, where someone in the family tries to take advantage of an older relative.
Check Monthly Bank Statements
While some cases of senior exploitation involve large sums of money moving at once, many scams work by taking monthly fees without providing any services. Fake charities and technical support services use this tactic. The senior may not know they’ve signed up for a $20 a month subscription. Checking monthly statements and looking into anything that seems sketchy can catch these monthly service scams, as well as the big money scams where someone tries to take thousands of dollars.
Financial exploitation can be prevented if family members work together to educate each other about fraud prevention and make critical decisions beforehand. If you have questions about setting up a power of attorney or another senior-related legal issue, the Law Firm of Steve Watrel, P.A. can help. We are experienced in fighting all forms of elder abuse and neglect, and that includes financial exploitation.