How to Spot Signs of Elder Financial Abuse — And How to Create a Strong Defense
It’s been dubbed “the crime of the century”— and with good reason. As the population ages, financial exploitation of seniors has exploded, with an estimated one in five experiencing some kind of financial abuse. The average loss is a staggering $120,000 per victim, according to AARP. And senior caregivers suffer, too, typically losing around $36,000.
Elder financial abuse can take on many forms, with the goal to gain control of an older adult’s property or funds. Aside from the huge price tag, there’s also a steep social cost, causing victims to live in fear and shame. What’s worse, it’s not only strangers committing these crimes; in many cases, they’re carried out by trusted friends, aides or family members.
June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day — the perfect time to brush up on the signs that may indicate someone you love is being victimized:
Atypical credit card use. Whether an elder relative is suddenly taking out cash advances or using cards more frequently, any behavior out of the ordinary should raise concern.
Missing funds. If accounts are coming up short, get to the bottom of it to determine where the money is going — especially if the account is suddenly receiving notices of insufficient funds.
Suspicious check writing. From questionable signatures to outright forgery to checks written off as gifts or loans, if you spot any of these actions taking place, it’s time to get involved.
Decline in quality of life. Lack of food, late payment of bills and neglecting self-care are all signs that something may be amiss. Also, take note if any possessions seem to be missing with no reasonable explanation.
Mood changes. A common sign of abuse is the abrupt onset of nervousness, anxiety or sadness. Victims may become more socially withdrawn or may have a new “best friend” who’s very controlling of their time and activities.
Stopping exploitation in its tracks
Think your loved ones are at risk? Here are some easy steps you can take to put safeguards in place and minimize the impact of elder financial abuse:
- Talk about it. Have an open dialogue about financial and care issues. Keep them alert of the scams they are vulnerable to and where they can turn for help.
- Become a guardian. When a loved one appoints you as their trusted fiduciary, you can make all financial decisions when they are unfit to do so. Consult with an attorney for the legalities of this role.
- Have them sign a power of attorney (POA) document. A POA is a legal document that can assign you to make financial and medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf. Once appointed, you can ensure they’re making sensible moves to make their money last.
- Establish a revocable trust. With a revocable trust in place, your loved ones can give you legal access to their accounts and the ability to step in and make their decisions when they can no longer do so for themselves.
- Utilize technology. Thanks to modern technology, you can help your loved one’s bank from home, setting up automated deposits of Social Security or dividend checks, sending withdrawal alerts and reminding them of payments due. And by having access to their log-in information, you can effectively keep tabs on their activity.
Protecting your financial assets — now and for the future
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This content is sponsored by RMF, one of the nation’s leading reverse mortgage lenders. We are dedicated to helping older Americans retire more freely, in the comfort of their own homes. As a result of our commitment to providing an extraordinary and positive customer experience, we have earned a 98% customer satisfaction rating; a 4.7 star / Excellent score on Trustpilot; 4.8 out of 5 stars on LendingTree; and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. Call 888-277-1567 to speak with a licensed reverse mortgage specialist to learn about our retirement financing products and solutions. Not financial or legal advice. Consult with a financial and/or legal advisor.
*Borrowers who elect a fixed rate loan will receive a single disbursement lump sum payment. Other payment options are available only for adjustable rate mortgages.