How Can You Protect the Elderly Against Financial Abuse?

More often than not, financial abuse of the elderly is a very underreported crime. Seniors are prime targets of many scams. Sadly these days the children and grandchildren of the elderly are quite often the ones who take advantage of their own loved ones. These elderly victims often times choose not to seek help in order to protect the guilty family member and often embarrassed to report the crime. Financial abuse of the elderly can take on many forms. They can have their money, property or identity taken, or even may be manipulated, coerced and deceived into signing documents they do not want to.

Below are some helpful ways to prevent these scenarios from happening:

  1. Let your loved one know that they should never divulge personal information over the phone or to unknown visitors. Encourage them to write down contact information if they are unsure about the phone call or the visitor. This way the validity of the phone call or visit can be authenticated. Always offer to look over any mail that requests personal information of any kind.
  2. Stay involved in their lives. Be willing to offer any help by double checking bank statements and balancing their checkbooks. This assistance will provide you plenty of opportunity to notice any unusual activity or changes to their accounts.
  3. Encouraged loved ones to never sign legal documents unless there is a trusted family member present.
  4. Be observant and watch for any signs of financial problems. Something as simple as having their water disconnected even though they have never paid a bill late, could be a sign of financial abuse.
  5. Be aware of any “new friends” and “caregivers” who suddenly appear to take interest in your loved one’s finances. Keep an eye out for missing items of any sort or financial activity that looks suspicious, especially when it takes place shortly after this “new” person suddenly befriends them.
  6. Make sure that Social Security and any other checks they receive are direct deposited. Often paper checks can be stolen and fraudulently cashed.
  7. Consult an attorney about your options. If an elderly person you love looks to be unable to handle their own finances and is falling victim to any sort of “scams”, then it may be time to secure legal help to get proper control of their finances.

Just remember that you have the best chance of detecting any sort of financial abuses by visiting and speaking with your elderly family members on a continuous basis. You can always look for help from other trustworthy relatives if you are not able to become as involved in their lives as you would like. Be sure to look out for any signs of confusion, dementia, and memory loss in your family members. Any person with mental disabilities is much more likely to be targeted as a victim to financial scams.

Amy B. Van Fossen

Amy B. Van Fossen

(Formerly Attorney Amy B. Jackson)