Elder financial abuse is something every family should be aware of and discuss with their loved ones. At Caring Hearts, we are committed to bringing awareness to the issue of elder financial abuse.
According to the Investor Protection Trust, one in five people age 65 or older has been financially scammed or swindled. Furthermore, with the unprecedented growth of the older population over the next decade, the problem of financial exploitation is only expected to get worse.
Sadly, the perpetrators are often those in a position of trust. Offenders take many forms: they can be family members, trusted advisers, neighbors, or friends. These culprits are people who seek out vulnerable seniors, could have costly habits (such as drugs or gambling), or are deceptive and unfair business people. Touting special offers, promises of great returns on investments, stories of hardship, and other tactics, these predatory criminals take advantage of trust, confusion, loneliness, and/or disability in order to make their money.
Here are our top 8 tips to help seniors protect themselves against financial abuse:
1. Acknowledge the risk
Women aged 75 and older and people with cognitive impairments are twice as likely to fall victim to scams. However, elder financial abuse is an “Equal Opportunity Crime” and everyone is at risk.
2. Monitor and protect
If something seems incorrect on a bank or credit card statement, dispute the charge. Keep your credit cards, checks, valuables, and personal information protected in a safe place.
3. Collect your change
If someone runs an errand for you, it is reasonable to expect that change is returned. Even if it's a small amount, it is still your money. Ask for your change.
4. Act rationally, not emotionally
If someone spins a tale of hardship (e.g., lost job, a house in foreclosure, past-due notices) and requests money from you, we recommend verifying the story first. Then, wait a couple of days to decide if you are in a position to help.
5. Pay your own bills
If a family member says he/she needs money to pay the mortgage or gas/electric, ask to see the past due notice. Make a check out to the creditor for the amount due rather than giving your loved one cash.
6. Write a contract
If you choose to help someone financially, draft a simple agreement that spells out your expectations for repayment: time period, interest, etc. If that same person comes back a second time without repaying the amount previously borrowed… see number seven:
7. Have the confidence to say NO!
If someone asks you for your hard-earned money, know that you have the right to say no. Their financial hardship is not your problem and there are other options they can consider such as taking out a loan or making lifestyle changes to reduce expenses.
8. Get a Second Opinion
An impartial third party could offer an objective point of view. Do not be ashamed or embarrassed if you have been swindled or scammed. Because of the humiliation that results in being a victim of this crime, few incidents are reported.
If you suspect someone is being financially abused, contact the Adult Protective Servicesin your state or county, or consult the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse.