The Most Shameful Crime: Stealing From Seniors
The generations of Americans that served in WWII, The Korean War, and Vietnam now make up the majority of our population. How sad that these great Americans are now often the victims of an ever-increasing crime known as Elder Financial Abuse. Through sacrifice and hard work, our seniors accumulated a tremendous amount of wealth during their lifetimes. Approximately 70% of our nation’s wealth is controlled by people 50 and older. As we all know, criminals go where the money is. It is estimated that nearly $3.0 billion is taken from seniors annually through fraud.
Much of this fraud is easily avoided by employing some basic defenses
Don’t answer your phone unless you are confident you know who is on the other end. If you answer and it is not who you thought it was, hang up. This is now a common practice, no one will think you are rude.
If you get a message on your answering machine that you owe money to the IRS, your credit card company, or anyone else, just delete it. If you truly owe money to someone, they will let you know in writing. If you receive mail that you owe money to someone but you are not sure, bring it to a trusted family member or friend for them to check it out for you.
If you receive any type of mail that you have won a contest, sweepstakes, trip, etc. just throw it out. You did not win, I promise.
A more difficult but not uncommon situation is where the fraud is committed by a caretaker, family member, or a new “friend”. This is mostly avoided by implementing a system of awareness for those around the potential victims. Unusual bank account activity is a red flag. This includes higher spending than normal, new accounts being opened, “friends” accompanying an older person to the bank, forged checks, loans to family members and “friends”. If you believe your parents are vulnerable, ask them for limited access to their accounts so you can review their monthly statements.
Money can disappear amazingly fast. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you suspect a problem, discuss your concerns with your elderly loved ones or friends and ask them to explain any unusual activity. If necessary, report your suspicions to their bank, put the bank on notice of potential fraud and ask for their help in stopping it. If the abuse is not bank related, contact your local Adult Protective Services for help.
Many of our clients at APWM are seniors or have parents who are seniors. While the assets we are managing are safely protected, all clients maintain some level of assets which may be vulnerable to fraud. If you are concerned about the safety of those assets or suspect your loved ones may be the victims of some type of financial abuse, please feel free to contact us.
Elder Financial Abuse and how to prevent it is a wide-ranging topic with many facets. We will explore many of the related issues in more detail over the next few months. If there are any specific Elder Financial Abuse questions you would like us to address, please let us know.