10 Tips to Protect Against Elder Financial Abuse
Tips and resources to help protect against financial abuse.
According to recently released Census Bureau projections, the number of Americans 65 and older will double over the next 30 years to 80 million. Because older Americans have worked and saved longer than their younger counterparts, they naturally hold a much larger share of the nation’s wealth.
Scammers are all too familiar with these statistics and are constantly developing new strategies to illegally take this money from the elderly. There is no limit to the imagination of a crook. Here are a few of the most common scams.
Some simple things that you can do to help protect your loved one:
1. Carefully Select Caregiver
Ask caregiver to provide referrals. Don’t just rely on calling the referrals. Make sure they are legitimate. Offer to buy him or her a cup of coffee so you can meet and evaluate them. When you find a caregiver you like, make sure they are certified and registered with the State. California recently passed a law requiring all home care agencies and independent home care aides to be certified and registered. Part of that process includes mandatory background checks. If your loved one lives outside of California, make sure to conduct a background check. There are many reputable companies that can do it for a reasonable fee.
2. Inventory all Jewelry
Jewelry is the number one item that is stolen from homes occupied by elders. Photograph valuable items and keep it in a locked drawer. In the event of theft, pictures are helpful in tracking down stolen jewelry at pawn shops. It also helps with insurance claims.
3. Secure Incoming and Outgoing Mail
Do not leave outgoing on incoming mail in an unsecured mailbox because mailbox theft is rampant. Get a locked mailbox or rent a p.o. box at the local post office. Trusted family members or friends should also monitor the source of incoming requests for charitable or political contributions. These solicitations are purposely designed to look like official non-profit or government organizations.
4. Allow Your Bank to Send a Duplicate Copy of Your Monthly Statements to a Trusted Family Member or Professional Advisor
Unfortunately, most financial elder abuse cases are only reported or discovered six to nine months after the initial losses have occurred. Elders whose sight is failing are at greater risk because they may rely upon the very person who is stealing from them to insure that the financial transactions are in order. An independent pair of eyes that is able to look over bank statements every 30 days will be able to catch suspicious activities in the early stages.
5. Buy a Shredder
Don’t simply throw away mail containing your name, address and any other identifying information. Shred it!!!! “dumpster divers” find all sorts of personal information to steal your identity.
6. Get Caller I.D. on Every Telephone
Criminals love to prey on the elderly through the telephone. With caller i.d., you can screen out incoming calls classified as “private” or “unknown.” If the call is legitimate, the caller will leave a message.
7. Watch Out for Lottery Scams
All telephone calls and mailings telling you that you won a lottery are a scam! These crooks are simply trying to swindle you out of money or private personal information in order for you to “collect your winnings.” They even ask you to donate a small portion of your winnings to a bogus charity in an effort to appear legitimate. Beware!
8. Be Alert to “Grandma” Scams
The con artist places a call to an older person and says something like “hi grandma, do you know who this is”? When the unsuspected elder guesses the name of a grandchild, the scam begins. Usually, the caller pretends to be the grandchild in need of quick cash to fix a car or get bailed out of jail for a dui. Never send money to anyone without double checking the source of the call. Don’t be fooled by a dramatic plea to “not call my parents because they will be mad at me.” These predators are randomly calling homes every day across the country.
9. Don’t Assume that the Friendly Handyman is Licensed
First, check the name of the contractor with the state license contractor’s board. Don’t assume a business card with a license number is valid. Next, always get at least two estimates in writing before committing to any work on your home. Finally, never pay more than 10% of the contract price up front.
10. Never Allow a Stranger into Your Home
Never allow any stranger into your home. If they have an emergency, tell them you will call 911.