The reporting of financial exploitation of our elderly population or those with disabilities has grown significantly over the past decades. As people over 50 years old control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans.
Often referred as elder financial abuse, this crime is widespread and according to the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA), “one in nine seniors reported being abused, neglected or exploited in the past 12 months.”
Financial frauds generally target older people. Even people savvy enough to avoid scams can make financial mistakes because they’re disorganized or forgetful. But they may be too proud to ask for help. To help combat this crime, there are several steps available to help safeguard savings.
Set Up Bill Pay
Regardless of age, anyone can forget to pay a bill. Take advantage of Travis Credit Union’s free Bill Pay service. Save a stamp and free up your to-do list by automating utility, mortgage, real estate taxes and other payments. On the other side, make sure to sign up for direct deposit for any money coming in.
However, this isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it situation. Make sure to continue to review your statements or log on to Online Banking once a week. It’s important to know what you are being charged plus mistakes can still happen. Make a list of the items you have set up for bill pay and make sure to share this with your heirs.
Sign Up for Banking Alerts
It’s easy. Travis can send you emails or texts for a variety of alerts including when your balance drops below a certain level and for large credit card purchases. Beyond official Travis alerts, you can also set up bill due dates and reminders to check statements on your phone or paper calendar.
Update Estate Planning Documents
Depending on your situation, a will, a living trust, health care directives, a power of attorney or other documents might be needed. Keep these updated to let someone else manage your affairs while you’re still alive and to handle your estate once you have passed on. Make sure to store these documents safely in a home safe or waterproof box. Then make sure your trusted confidante knows where they are in the event you’re incapacitated.
Simplify your banking by closing accounts with small amounts of money and combining brokerage accounts. This gives you less to keep track of and manage. If you have multiple credit cards, use just one so you only have one bill to pay.
Don’t Make Quick Decisions
Sales people push for a quick response because they know people are more likely to buy in the heat of emotion. Make a pact with yourself that you won’t make any significant financial move, such as moving your investments to another brokerage firm or buying a new car, without first discussing it with a trusted friend or relative.
Don’t Do It Alone
If you want someone else to help monitor your finances, have copies of your statements sent to a trusted friend or relative. Authorize your financial advisor to discuss your finances and concerns with your third party and request an annual meeting to which you bring your trusted friend. However, be careful with whom you share your information as 90 percent of elder financial abuse is committed by family members.
Financial Abuse: What to Do?
Elder abuse is vastly under-reported. According to the NAPSA only one in 44 cases of financial abuse is ever reported.
What should you do if you are a victim of financial abuse?
- Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy.
- Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank.
- Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help.
What should you do if you suspect financial abuse?
- Talk to elderly friends or loved ones if you see any of the signs mentioned here. Try to determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation, such as a new person “helping” them with money management, or a relative using cards or credit without their permission.
- Report the elder financial abuse to their bank, and enlist their banker’s help to stop it and prevent its recurrence.
- Contact Adult Protective Services in your town or state for help.
- Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police–if fraud is involved, they should investigate.
Some of the scams that criminals use against the elderly include:
- Health insurance scams involving Medicare
- Prescription drug scams with counterfeit drugs
- Scams involving cemeteries or funerals
- Anti-aging products that prey on a senior’s search for youth
- Telemarketing scams
- Email and internet fraud
- Investment scams
- Sweepstakes and lottery winning scams
- Reverse mortgages or homeowner scams
- Grandparent scam that preys on the heartstrings of the elderly and their grandchildren