According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, financial exploitation is the fastest growing form of elder abuse. Sadly, in more than half of reported incidents, a family member or trusted professional is the culprit. They take advantage of an elder’s dependence or lack of knowledge regarding complex financial matters, and entice them with products and services that don’t fit their retirement needs or life expectancy. How do you protect the ones you love?
Why are the elderly a tempting target?
Statistics suggest that seniors count for a majority of the country’s wealth, and many are lonely, widowed and desperate for financial advice. They are also considered prime targets because when they fall victim to a scam, they are more likely to keep the incident to themselves. It’s even common for victims to deny such an act occurred. Shame in being duped and having to name a potential family member as a criminal may prove embarrassing or difficult to elders.
How can you tell if financial abuse has occurred?
Pay attention to any personality changes. If you notice it’s harder to reach mom or dad, look into the matter a little further. Isolation is a significant warning sign. Changes in routine such as bills left unpaid, even though money is available, refusing to let you view financial statements and last-minute changes to a will could possibly be signs of financial exploitation. Also, if forgetfulness has become a pattern and your loved one can’t seem to remember what’s happening with his or her finances, consider a medical check-up.
How can you protect your loved one?
Make sure your loved one’s estate is in order. At minimum, everyone should have a will, a Living Will, a Healthcare Power of Attorney and a Legal Power of Attorney. By identifying a responsible family member or friend in advance, you have the legal right to step in, should your loved one be unable to handle his or her affairs.
If you or a loved one is the target of a scam, report it immediately to the N.C. Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 877.5.NO.SCAM.