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Preventing Financial Elder Abuse

Financial Scams cost victims almost 40 billion dollars a year.  Unfortunately many of the victims are the elderly and vulnerable adults of all ages.  According to the FTC, 20% of the elderly will fall for some type of scam and lose money.  The average loss of a financial elder abuse scam is $120,000.  60% of elder financial exploitation is done by a close friend, relative, or caregiver.

Here are some steps to take to protect yourself:

Guard your personal information.  Often predators present themselves as being your friend or part of an organization you trust such as a charity or part of the government.  Never give out your personal information or your account information to anyone.  Any legitimate business you are dealing with will already have your information.  They don’t need you to repeat it back to them unless it’s only the last 4 digits.

Because the rate of abuse among caregivers is high, make sure you do a complete background check on anyone you bring into your home to help you.  You can also hire a reputable company to do the background check for you.  Never hand over funds via a check, cash, money order, or wire transfer, to a caregiver or friend to deposit for you.  If you are not able to get to the bank, enlist the help of several friends to do it together, or a church organization that helps out the elderly.  Make sure that more than one person is involved to keep more sets of eyes to make sure the funds are going to the proper place.

Ask your financial institution to teach you about on-line banking and banking alerts.  Practice accessing your account remotely until you are confident in your use of the system.  Never leave your passwords in the open or give them to anyone.  It is best to memorize your login and passwords.  Do not allow your computer to auto-fill any passwords for you.

Financial abuse among family members is also high.  Often family members are enlisted to help out with finances but they divert funds to pay for things that has nothing to do with you or your needs.  Set up account alerts so that when a transaction is made, you are sent an email or text to notify you of the transaction.  In this way, you’ll be able to more actively monitor what is going on with your account.

If you do get to a point where you need to select a Power of Attorney over your accounts, draw up the document with an attorney and select two who are not close relatives or friends.  In this way, you have a third set of eyes watching.

Keep in touch with friends and loved ones.  Often abusers will try to keep you away from them because they are afraid you will talk.  Your network of friends and loved ones is the most important thing to keep you happy, healthy, and safe.

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