Seniors are increasingly victimized by fraud. Sometimes by strangers, but other times care-givers, friends and even family members abuse vulnerable older ones financially. Recent statistics on elder abuse from TrueLink research indicate that such crimes are increasing:

  • A person who receives just one telemarketing call per day is said to likely experience three times as much financial loss as someone who receives no or only occasional telemarketing calls.
  • Small losses appear to suggest greater vulnerability: a senior who lost as little as $20 in a year due to exploitation could be expected to lose $2,000 a year to other types of fraud.
  • It is estimated that 954,000 seniors are currently skipping meals as a result of financial abuse.

Perhaps their desire to be independent puts them at more risk. But whatever the reason, there are things that can be done to protect elders from financial abuse and stop it from continuing.

Peoples Bank and the US Federal Government work hard to ensure financial well-being, and that work includes informing seniors and their family or care-giver on the right way to protect their resources and assets. This post provides links to helpful information for both the aging adult and the one(s) who will truly look for their better interests.

Possible Signs of Financial Elder Abuse

According to the US Treasury, the following activity may indicate financial fraud of elderly account holders:

  • Erratic or unusual banking transactions.
  • Changes in typical banking patterns.
  • Frequent large withdrawals.
  • Daily maximum currency withdrawals from an ATM.
  • Sudden nonsufficient fund activity.
  • Uncharacteristic nonpayment for bank or financial services.
  • Debit transactions that are inconsistent for an older adult.
  • Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money.
  • Closing certificate of deposit or bank accounts without regard to penalties.
  • A caregiver’s or other individual’s excessive interest in an older adult’s finances or assets.
  • A financial institution’s inability to speak directly with the older adult, despite repeated attempts to contact him or her.
  • The older adult shows an unusual degree of fear or submissiveness toward a caregiver, or expresses a fear of eviction or nursing home placement if money is not given to a caretaker.
  • A new caretaker’s, relative’s or friend’s sudden commencement of financial transactions on the older adult’s behalf without proper documentation.

One solution is to work with your community bank

Good communication and documentation are an important defense against elder abuse and false accusation. Perhaps the biggest advantage your community bank can offer you is a personal relationship founded on the desire to protect you financially.

Help for Aging Adults

Adults can do much to defend themselves. They can carefully monitor their accounts and immediately report suspicious activity. Asking someone who can be trusted to help you with this can be valuable.

Of course, preparing a power of attorney or other advance plan can do much for continuity despite challenges that come with aging. But be sure you choose wisely, and think about adding safeguards to guarantee your interests are looked after.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) web site offers many good resources to help you both to prepare and protect your financial resources. For example, there is Protecting What’s Yours, a web page that lists five things you should know about your money and a document to help you plan for diminished capacity and illness. There is also a handy Additional Resources for Older Americans and Their Families page that presents phone numbers and resources by topic (such as how to avoid scams and getting support on financial decision-making and legal issues).

Resources for Care-Givers

It used to be that care-givers were innocent until proven guilty. Unfortunately, that can no longer be said with confidence. It is wise to take precautions to establish your good motive and intent in providing care to your loved older ones. One way to do that is to make sure you have a good relationship with your community banker. This may help smooth out disagreements or challenges to your financial transactions.

It is also important to know your legal obligations as fiduciary. (A “fiduciary” is a person or organization entrusted to control property or to act on behalf of and for the benefit of another.) The CFPB’s Managing Someone Else’s Money provides guides for people with different fiduciary responsibilities such as agents under a power of attorney, court-appointed guardians, trustees or social security payees or Veteran’s Administration payees.

Each state has their own specific regulations for serving as someone else’s money manager, so you would do well to investigate those.

ElderCare.gov provides local and regional resources to help both care-givers and seniors to find help with needs particular to the aged adult.