Financial exploitation is one of the most common forms of abuse committed against older Americans. According to a Metlife study, an estimated $2.9 billion is lost annually to scams explicitly targeting seniors. Fortunately, taking a few easy steps can go a long way in protecting a loved one's finances.
"Older Americans currently hold more than two-thirds of all U.S. deposits, making them highly susceptible to scams, exploitation and abuse," said Corey Carlisle, ABA Foundation executive director. "It's critical that seniors and their loved ones recognize the signs of financial abuse before it's too late and get help immediately if they think they've been victimized."
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters. Select someone who has your best interest at heart.
- Never give personal information, including your Social Security, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Stay alert to common fraud schemes. Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery "winnings."
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don't understand.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don't allow workers to have access to information about your finances and make sure to lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when strangers are in your home.
- Pay by card instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you believe you or someone you know may be the victim of elder financial abuse, contact your local Adult Protective Services, tell someone at your bank or call your local police for help.