Elder financial abuse is a serious issue in which someone takes financial advantage of an older individual. If you are an older adult or you have a friend or family member who is, there are steps you can take to protect those finances.
What older adults can do
Older adults should make an asset protection plan. This should include choosing a trustworthy person as their agent for estate planning. They should carefully protect their personal information, shredding credit card offers, bank statements and other offers. They should not give out personal information to people online or offline, and they should regularly check their credit report to make sure it is accurate. They should trust their instincts and alert someone, such as a bank employee or someone at the local Adult Protective Services office, if they believe they are being taken advantage of. If the financial abuse has already happened, they can also contact people at these institutions, the police, a trusted friend or family member, or another individual they trust, such as a doctor or religious leader.
How friends and family can help
Friends and family of older adults should be on the lookout for signs of financial abuse, such as unexplained ATM withdrawals, suspicious signatures, someone new who is accompanying the person to the bank, bank statements going to a different address or new powers of attorney. Any major changes of a similar nature to these can indicate a problem, such as a sudden change to a will. The older adult might also seem confused or afraid.
People who have older family members may want to talk to them about how they can protect themselves from financial abuse. For example, documentation such as powers of attorney can appoint a friend or family member to manage the person’s finances if that person becomes incapacitated. There may be other ways to protect assets, such as placing them in a trust. Financial professionals may be able to suggest other approaches that can offer protection.