Prevent elder financial abuse
Here are the steps experts agree will help protect you and your aging loved ones.
- When a person is still mentally sharp, help him or her make a plan that designates power of attorney and health care directives.
- Initiate a conversation about scams and the common ways older consumers are targeted. Ask your loved one to contact you if they receive any phone calls or emails that just don’t seem right.
- Stay connected with older loved ones through regular phone calls, visits or emails.
- Develop a relationship with your parent’s caregiver. They may be less likely to financially exploit someone because they know you’re paying attention.
- Become a "trusted contact" to monitor bank account and brokerage activity.
- Track financial activity and notify an advocate of unusual withdrawals or spending.
- Set up direct deposit for checks so others don’t have to cash them.
- Do not sign any documents that you don’t understand.
- Encourage seniors to get details in writing before making any financial transaction. Then, have them share that information with you or another trusted adviser before taking any action.
- If your loved one uses a computer, make sure their software and security systems are up to date. The patches distributed by software vendors often close known vulnerabilities that cybercriminals may try to exploit.
- Consider purchasing comprehensive identity protection for seniors in your life that includes credit monitoring, continuous dark web monitoring for exposed credentials, advanced fraud monitoring, smart alerts and top-rated resolution services.
Changes in Checking and/or Credit/Debit Spending and Transaction Patterns
- A set of “out-of-sync” check numbers.
- A sudden flurry of “bounced” checks and overdraft fees.
- Transaction review shows multiple small dollar checks posting to the senior’s account in the same month. This could be indicative of telemarketing or charity scams.
- Large withdrawals from a previously inactive checking or credit account or a new joint account.
- Account use shortly after the addition of a new authorized signer.
- Abrupt increases in credit or debit card activity.
- Sudden appearance of credit card balances or ATM/debit card purchases or withdrawals with no prior history of such previous use.
- Withdrawals or purchases using ATM or debit cards that are repetitive over a short period of time.
- Withdrawals or purchases using ATM or debit cards that are inconsistent with prior usage patterns or times (e.g., late night or very early morning withdrawals by elderly customers, withdrawals at ATMs in distant parts of town by customers who don’t drive or are house bound).
- Withdrawals or purchases using ATM or debit cards that are used shortly after the addition of a new authorized signer.
- Unexplained disappearance of funds or valuable possessions, such as safety deposit box items.
- Vulnerable adult appears confused about the account balance or transactions on his or her account.
- A caregiver appears to be getting paid too much or too often.
- Significant increases in monthly expenses paid which may indicate that expenses for persons other than the customers are being paid.
- Sudden changes in accounts or practices, such as unexplained withdrawals of large sums of money, particularly with a vulnerable adult who is escorted by another (e.g., caregiver, family member, “friend”) who appears to be directing the changing activity patterns.
Changes to Accounts and/or Documentation
- Recent changes or additions of authorized signers on a vulnerable adult’s financial institution signature card.
- Statements are sent to an address other than the vulnerable adult’s home.
- Vulnerable adult has no knowledge of a newly- issued ATM, debit or credit card.
- Abrupt changes to, or confusion regarding changes in, financial documents such as Power of Attorney, account beneficiaries, wills and trusts, property titles, deeds and other ownership documents.
- Sudden unexplained transfers of assets, particularly real property.
- Sudden appearance of previously uninvolved relatives claiming their rights to a vulnerable adult’s affairs and possessions.
- Discovery of a vulnerable adult’s signature being forged for financial transactions or for the titles of his or her possessions.
- Refinance of the vulnerable adult’s property, particularly with significant cash out or with the addition of new owners on the deed and, most particularly, without the new owners shown as co-borrowers on the loan.
Changes in Appearance or Demeanor
- Vulnerable adult has a companion who seems to be “calling the shots”.
- Change in the vulnerable adult’s physical or mental appearance. For example, the customer may appear uncharacteristically disheveled, confused or forgetful. These signs could indicate self neglect or early dementia and leave the vulnerable adult open for financial exploitation.
- Vulnerable adult acknowledges providing personal and account information to a solicitor via the phone or email.
- Excitement about winning a sweepstakes or lottery.
- Allegations from a vulnerable adult or relative regarding missing funds or physical or mental abuse.