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  Home & Family Finance Resource Center

Recognize, Stop Elder Financial Abuse

June 17th, 2015

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio (6/16/15)--World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on Monday brought together senior citizens, caregivers, the private sector and governments to focus on and exchange ideas about how best to combat exploitation of the elderly (The News Herald June 10). It's important to be aware that some forms of exploitation are financial: stolen money, loss of property through sale or theft, forged signatures on financial statements, false promises of lifelong care, and so forth. Adults age 50 and older control more than 70% of the nation's wealth and are attractive targets for many reasons. For example, they might be dependent on others, have predictable patterns, not realize the value of their assets or be unsophisticated about financial matters and technology. Perpetrators can be family members, predatory individuals and unscrupulous professionals (or persons posing as such). Help stop elder financial exploitation by looking for warning signs:
  • Unpaid bills, eviction notices or notices to discontinue utilities;
  • Withdrawals or transfers from financial accounts that the person can't explain;
  • New "best friends" or authorized signers on accounts;
  • Legal documents that the older person did not understand at the time he or she signed them;
  • Missing belongings or property;
  • Lack of documentation about financial arrangements; and
  • Questionable signatures on checks or other legal documents.
Prevention is key in eliminating financial abuse of elders. Here are tips from consumer finance website NerdWallet:
  • Have a family discussion. Have an attorney draft a personal care agreement that is clear about how a family caregiver will be compensated;
  • Run a national background check on caregivers before hiring;
  • Accompany elders to meetings with financial advisers. Regulatory safeguards are in place to prevent fraudulent activity, but tag along anyway and verify that your loved one isn't being ripped off;
  • Protect valuables. List and photograph them. Store the lists and photographs separately from the items;
  • Secure mail. Incoming and outgoing mail in an unsecured mailbox is a tempting target; and
  • Check up on loved ones--often. If you live out of the area and can't confirm an elderly person's well-being, contact the local police for a "well check."
Awareness of elder abuse is the first step to protecting your loved ones from being exploited by predators. Elderly women are targeted more often than men. Those with disabilities also are at a greater risk, and sadly, those whom the elderly trust most are usually the culprits.

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