A young woman and a female senior citizen exchange smiles in a park after learning tips to fight elder financial abuse

Safeguarding Seniors: 5 Ways to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse.

From recognizing red flags and common scams to designating trusted advocates who check in regularly, there are multiple ways to defend against elder financial abuse.

Elder financial exploitation is a heartbreaking reality, one that impacts countless individuals each year, especially those who live alone, have limited relationships and rely on someone else for care. It’s a crime that involves scammers – strangers, neighbors, friends or even close relatives in this case – who exploit vulnerable senior citizens to steal their life savings, possessions or sensitive personal information.

As if that’s not bad enough, crimes often go unreported because victims are afraid, ashamed, embarrassed or experiencing cognitive or physical decline that makes it difficult for them to remain independent and protect themselves. But there’s good news. If we work together, prevention becomes easier and instances of abuse can be reduced. It all starts with following some basic tips.

  1. Know the red flags

    Preventing elder financial exploitation starts with recognizing the classic warning signs, with unusual banking activity being red flag number one. If large, recurring or unexplained withdrawals or transfers suddenly start showing up in a senior citizen’s account, it’s worth looking into. Unprecedented ATM withdrawals, payment card activity and overdraft penalties could also be telltale signs of fraud. The same goes if a “new friend” suddenly starts accompanying an older individual to the bank and handling all their financial business.

    From forged checks to diverted bank statements to altered wills and everything between, the main idea is to watch for suspicious activity that’s uncharacteristic of a particular senior citizen. This is where vigilance on the part of loved ones, financial representatives and elderly individuals themselves becomes especially important.

    A good way for a trusted guardian to have access to an elderly individual’s financial assets – and therefore gain greater visibility into potential fraudulent activity – is to accompany the senior citizen to the bank or other organization to discuss the best options together.

Pro Tip:

Work with a trusted financial institution to set seniors up with direct deposit and automatic bill pay, which will help fight fraud. Gate City Bank, for example, makes it incredibly easy to monitor activity and keep accounts secure!

  1. Study up on scams

    It’s also important to stay up-to-date on common scams being used to exploit seniors, financially. If an elderly person learns they’re the “lucky winner” of a sweepstakes, for example, and are asked to provide their financial information to receive their winnings, it’s a scam! And a popular one at that. (Psst. Legitimate sweepstakes do not ask for this information up front from winners.)

    Another common scheme is the good old-fashioned grandparent scam, which involves calling an elderly individual and claiming to be their grandchild. The criminal will often make it sound like they’re in trouble and need money quickly to get out of a jam. Scammers will manipulate the victim into not telling family members about the so-called emergency, and they’ll likely take their craftiness to the next level by referencing the names of actual relatives, which can easily be found online in many cases.

    Fraudsters are shameless. They’ll prey on elderly individuals’ generosity by soliciting for fake charities. They’ll offer “discounts” on fake health care and prescription medications. They’ll even take advantage of seniors’ loneliness by carrying out heartless romance scams. The common denominator in almost every case? The criminal will pressure the victim to act quickly. Don’t let them get away with it! Stay updated on the latest senior scams here.

  2. Secure money & sensitive information

    It’s also important for an elderly individual to lock up their checkbook, not leave cash or payment cards out in the open and safely store financial documents and other sensitive information in locked storage or a safety deposit box at their local bank. This is especially important in environments where other people could be in the vicinity consistently, such as in an assisted living home. Reminding seniors not to give out their Social Security number, account numbers or other personal information is also key.

  3. Be careful with caregivers

    If an elderly loved one needs in-home help from a professional caregiver, it’s important to work with a reputable agency or other reliable source that does proper staff screening. Once the caretaker is hired, it’s also important to keep a close watch to make sure they’re treating the older individual well. The ultimate goal is to build trust with this professional over time, making sure the senior citizen receives the best care possible.

    Similarly, if a senior citizen is in a retirement facility, it’s important to check in on them and the staff consistently to make sure the proper care is being given, all necessary resources are available, workers aren’t experiencing burnout, etc. If there are suspicions that the quality of care has been compromised in any way, document them as much as possible and share your concerns with management.

  4. Establish genuine advocates

    When it comes to preventing elder financial abuse, it’s also crucial to designate a well-intentioned individual(s) who can act on behalf of a senior citizen through power of attorney or general advocacy, having their best interest at heart in multiple scenarios. Depending on the situation, this could be a family member, lawyer, financial professional or someone similar. From signing documents to navigating health decisions, the idea is to have someone who is consistently there for the elderly individual to help them thrive – all while keeping them safe from fraudsters.

Join the Fight Against Elder Financial Abuse.

Our beloved elders bring so much rich history and deep connection to this world. They’ve been there for us by providing guidance, support and wisdom, and they deserve our care and protection. By following the helpful tips outlined above, we can help keep them safe from scams in their sunset years – For a Better Way of Life.®

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