According to Comparitech, a cyber security research company, more than 334,000 incidents of elder financial exploitation are reported each year, causing more than $6.3 billion in losses. Throughout my career, I have been exposed to many instances of exploitation, including a family that thought it was OK to keep their mom in one room of her home and then lived in the rest of the house and used her money to buy cars and vacations. I have also witnessed an estranged family member attempt to get a signature from a demented senior which would have cleaned out her bank account. Plus, elder people’s generosity can easily be taken advantage of. My own mother used to give to anyone who asked! I am still getting donation requests on her behalf, five years after her passing.
Protecting ourselves and our parents against financial exploitation is usually not on our radar.
Here are a few steps you can take to help reduce exposure to exploitation:
- Designate a Financial Power of Attorney while you are still able to. It’s terrible to be in a situation where you became incapacitated and your caregiver(s) need to use your money to take care of you but they can’t access the funds.
- Sign up for a tech tool such as LifeLock or Eversafe. These products detect suspicious activity on the front line and offer support for recouping any losses that occur.
- Appoint a trusted person as a contact for your accounts and investments. This trusted contact is someone that can get account information but is not able to make transactions.
- Stay in touch with your loved ones. Social isolation can let unscrupulous individuals into your life. People can befriend an older person and become part of their life so when they ask for money, the older person will give it to them.
- If you have to hire in home help, use an agency. The Area Agency on Aging can give you a list of reputable providers. Agencies have to follow state rules and run background checks on all their providers.
One last tip is to check out AARP’s Fraud Watch Network. It’s a great tool for staying informed on the newest scams