Unfortunately, senior financial abuse is now more common than you might think. According to the National Council on Aging, almost 90% of the financial abuse committed against older Americans is done by someone the victim knows. This is why it’s imperative for seniors and their family members to be aware of the signs of elder abuse and what can be done to prevent this crime from happening to you or a loved one.
Know the red flags
Frequently, financial abuse is detected when there’s been an unusual change in someone’s established financial habits—such as large, infrequent withdrawals, sudden insufficient balances or unpaid bills, and checks written as loans or gifts. Other signs include caretakers or relatives who suddenly start managing an older person’s finances without proper documentation, unexpected changes to wills and trusts, and a new power of attorney that the older person does not fully understand.
We’re always looking out for these kinds of suspicious signs to help protect you and your loved ones.
Steps you can take
- Watch out for phone scams. As a precaution, you can put all of your phone numbers on the “do not call” list by calling 1-888-382-1222 or by visiting donotcall.org. Determined scammers can get around this system, but it is a good first line of defense to have in place. If necessary, you can even get an unlisted phone number. In general, however, it’s smart not to accept calls from people you don’t know—especially unsolicited calls. For more information, see our article on phone scams here.
- Don’t give out your personal information. No matter who someone claims to be when they text, call or email you, don’t provide your personal information such as your social security number, credit card details, etc. In addition, never sign anything you don’t understand—especially if it’s suspicious or unclear.
- Never wire money to strangers, no matter how urgent the circumstances are or who the person needing money claims to be.
- Get in a smart financial routine. Review your account statements at least monthly, and monitor your credit report at least annually. If you notice any suspicious changes or unauthorized charges, contact your financial institution immediately. You should also use a document shredder for all discarded financial information and credit card offers you receive.
- Use caution when signing up for joint accounts. Be sure to speak with your financial institution or local Area Agency on Aging to learn about different options for financial management assistance and paying bills. If an account has joint access, then both parties can make decisions, withdraw money, and make transactions. If you want to grant someone joint access to your accounts to help you facilitate financial transactions, be sure to carefully choose a trustworthy person.
- Beware of online scams. Scams can trick you with amazing offers (for example, “enter to win $1,000,000!”) or with threats (for example, “wire us $1,000 or risk losing all the money in your account”). You don’t wanted to be fooled by these attempts to gain access to your personal information.
- Know who is in your home. It is important to check references and credentials before letting someone—like a caregiver or repair person—into your home. Be sure all financial documents and other sensitive information is stored away and out of sight.
- Understand the terms of assigning a Power of Attorney. Use caution when executing a Power of Attorney. Naming someone as your agent in a Power of Attorney gives them the authority to act and make decisions on your behalf. That authority can include managing and having access to your bank and other financial accounts. Make sure you fully understand the authority being given to your agent before executing a Power of Attorney.
If you have questions or concerns, we’re available 24/7 at 800-860-8821 and during regular business hours at 60 banking center locations. Our expert banking staff is trained in spotting the signs of senior financial abuse and knowing how to help.
Please see our printable PDF on senior financial abuse here for more information.