Financial elder abuse is a growing concern, especially as the Baby Boomers age. According to Forbes, 2.9 billion is taken from seniors in scams yearly. Though you may think of your parent as a wise and skeptical person, aging tends to dull everyone’s ability to protect themselves from fraud. We become more trusting, are less familiar with technology, and rely on those around us more. This is why it’s smart to take steps to protect your parent or loved one before they fall victim to financial abuse. Here are ten things you can do to help.
- Keep an Eye on Their Accounts
You may have to switch your parent to online banking to keep a close eye on their bank account, but it’s worth the fuss. Most elderly people have predictable spending habits, so you can spot problems right away.
Only share access to the senior’s account with the most trustworthy family members, and not those who have borrowed money from the senior before or who are having financial difficulties. There are third party companies, like EverSafe and the American Association of Daily Money Managers that can help you keep an eye on your parent.
- Know What to Look For
When you’re monitoring your parent’s bank account, what should you look for? Sudden payments or withdrawals to places you don’t recognize are most common.
Also look for:
- ATM withdrawals
- Other cash withdrawals
- Check purchases
- New accounts
- Unusual savings withdrawals
- Doubled payments
- New people authorized on the account
- Put the Checkbook Away
These days everything can be paid with a credit card or through e-transfer, even rent. Checks are more dangerous because there’s no safe guard for fraud. If your parent pays into a scam with their credit card, you can usually recuperate this money. With checks or a debit card, you’re out of luck. It may be wise to lock up your parent’s other payment methods in a safe, and have him or her use them only when you’re around.
- Choose Caregivers Carefully
While there are online and stranger scams, 34 percent of elder abuse is actually committed by someone close to the senior. This may include family, caregivers, friends, or neighbors.
In order to prevent caregiver fraud, ensure that you’ve hired a caregiver from a reputable agency. You may like to set up a nanny cam or other recording equipment if you suspect financial abuse. Be sure that you’re the one paying the caregiver directly and not your parent, so that the caregiver is less likely to demand fraudulent second payment for their “services” from your parent.
- Watch New Friends and Relatives
Elders may trust new people in their life too quickly, sometimes lending them money or making them an authority on their accounts. Elders can be manipulated into situations that don’t make sense, like opening up new accounts or taking out loans, to help these “friends.” Keep an eye on any new friends or even family members your parent has.
- Avoid In-Person Scams
Ask your parent to alert you if someone comes by their house unexpectedly. Often scammers pretend to be financial advisers, contractors doing repairs, or landscapers. They offer home services or financial advice but actually target and steal from the elderly. A front door security camera like Nest can help you keep track of unusual visitors to your parent’s home.
- Educate Your Parent
If your parent still has a strong memory and understanding of tech enough that you can introduce them to new types of scams committed through technology, you should. Focus especially on scams that target the elderly. While you can’t expect this knowledge to be their only safeguard from financial abuse, it may help them avoid the most serious scams.
- Get Regular Credit Reports
Even if you have access to your parent’s account you may miss things. Getting a credit report on them once every few months will ensure you don’t miss it if they open a new credit card or take on some kind of loan, which they could then use to participate in a scam.
- Let Your Parent Know You’re There for Them
Elders are less likely to take action against the criminal even when they know they’ve been scammed. Perhaps it increases their fear that they are becoming too dependent on others or they’re embarrassed about being duped. If your parent knows that you’re there to help, and won’t think less of them for falling prey to a scam, they may be more likely to reach out for help if they think they’ve been scammed.
- Report Suspected Abuse
If you suspect that your parent has been scammed, it is wise to report the person to the police, or to speak with them directly about it (if they are a friend or family member) right away. Elderly people may be surprisingly trusting and can fall for the same scam twice. Plus, by reporting the scam, you can protect more vulnerable elders like your parent and prevent more financial abuse from happening to others.
Looking for more information and support with your loved one’s finances? We encourage you to schedule a call with one of the dedicated Aging Life Care Managers™ in our network.