Older populations are at risk of becoming victims of several different types of abuse. The most common form of abuse taking place in today’s world is financial abuse. This type of abuse is commonly perpetrated by those that know the victim; however, others that are not known by the victim may also take advantage of their finances in an illegal fashion and in numerous ways. It is critical that you know the steps to protect your loved one’s financial matters. Proper management is the key to success. Learn how to identify the signs of financial abuse and protect your loved ones.
Signs of Financial Abuse
There are many signs or indicators that an elderly adult is being subjected to financial abuse. In some instances, the presence of these signs could indicate a mistake on the individual’s part. It is not uncommon for an elderly person to make a mistake with their money. These mistakes could be a result of taking medications, health conditions, or an indicator of a failing memory; however, if several signs are present, it is best to research the issue and determine if someone is taking advantage of your loved one. The following outlines the most common indicators of financial abuse:
- Your loved one may have unpaid bills – including their mortgage or rent and utility bills. They may receive a foreclosure threat, an eviction notice, or may experience a discontinuation in certain services – such as their home phone, cell phone, electricity, water, gas, or cable services.
- Their personal belongings and other property may come up missing.
- When reviewing bank statements, you may discover unexplained cash withdrawals. The amounts may be high or you may see several small amounts withdrawn. Additionally, you should look for withdrawals that could not have been made by your loved one.
- If your loved one is paying for any type of care or service – be it lawn care, housecleaning services, or nursing care – and you notice that the services being provided are substandard, they may be suffering from financial abuse.
- You may notice that certain documents – such as checks and/or legal paperwork – has forgeries.
- You may find that your loved one does not have the money for things that they once did. For example, they are unable to pay for their medications, buy groceries, care for their pets, and other necessities.
- Your loved one may not understand or remember where their money went and why their financial situation is the way that it is.
Strategies for Protecting Finances
There are several different strategies that may be used to protect an older loved one’s finances. The first and main technique is to place an emphasis on organizing all of your loved one’s records and knowing exactly what they have in all of their accounts. Next, help your loved one complete the following:
- First, have them choose an individual that they wish to share their financial information with. This should be a person that can help with everyday financial matters and is willing to take over should the individual experience any type of incapacitation. It is best to have one main person to help with financial matters; however, you may help your loved one select two people, with one being back up if the first person is unable to assist for some reason.
- Next, have your loved one order a copy of their credit report from each of the three main credit bureaus, once a year. This may be done by calling 1-877-322-8228.
- You should encourage your loved one to avoid using cash for transactions. Instead, have them pay with the checks and/or debit card from their bank. This way, all transactions can be properly recorded.
- Sign up for the service with the elderly loved one’s bank that allows images of all checks and withdrawals to be saved. That way, if there is a question in the future about a transaction, you can go back into the account, pull up the image, and observe it for suspicious activity – such as forgeries.
- Make certain that your loved one NEVER provides any financial or personal identifiable information over the phone. That is, unless they called out. In other words, if someone calls them and pretends to be the bank, they should not provide their account information; however, if they call their bank and the person requests it, that is appropriate.
- Your loved one should be provided with a medium to large fireproof/waterproof safe where they may keep their checkbook, statements, valuables, and other critical information.
- Encourage your loved one to only carry that in their wallet/purse that is necessary. For example, it is appropriate to carry a form of identification – such as a driver’s license – and an insurance card, but they should place any unnecessary items in their safe. These items may include their Social Security card, credit cards, and similar items. This helps to protect them should their lose or accidentally misplace their belongings and it falls into the hands of another.
- Become aware of the scams that are targeting older adults and go over the information with your loved one so that they know what is legitimate and what is not. This is a very important step as the elderly are frequently targeted by those that want illegal access to their money.
- Take your loved one to an attorney that can help them create financial documents, wills, estate planning, and other legal paperwork. Make it known to the attorney that someone should be contacted if the individual goes back to make sudden changes – especially if someone is with them.
- Encourage your loved one to designate a power of attorney. You should look into the types to determine which is most appropriate. Examples of the types include “Limited”, “General”, “Durable”, and “Springing”.