Financial abuse of elders is on the rise and, in most cases, the abuser is a family member or someone else close to the victim. They may take advantage of an older person’s cognitive decline and trust.
Preventing financial abuse
While not everything can be prevented, there are ways to limit your chance of being taken advantage of financially. Plan ahead to make sure your assets and finances will be taken care of. Make sure that your checkbooks and other financial papers and cards are kept safe and inaccessible to others. Check your credit report annually. Do not share personal information except when necessary. Last but not least, do not be afraid to say no. After all, it is your money!
Signs to look for
According to the American Bankers Association, financial abuse can come in many forms, and there are several different warning signs to look for. Unusual bank account activity is often a major indicator. Also look for ATM withdrawals by an elderly person who does not generally use ATM machines. New people accompanying an elderly person to the bank can be another indicator. You should also look at the signatures on checks, contracts, or banking transactions to make sure that they match and are not forgeries.
There are areas other than banking that should also be examined. A power of attorney that the older person does not understand may also be something to be concerned about. In addition, altered wills, loss of property, or a relative or caretaker taking over all financial transactions may also be a reason to look more closely at the situation.
What you can do if you or someone you know is being victimized
There are several ways that you can get the finances back under the control of their rightful owner. Talk to a family member who can be trusted or speak to an attorney or an officer at the bank to begin to take action and make the funds inaccessible to the person exploiting them. Contact Adult Protective Services and the local police. If there is fraud involved, the police will investigate.
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