Financial abuse against older Americans can take many forms. These include illegal debits, third-party scams, and even unauthorized withdrawals by an approved caregiver. It is such an issue, that the United States Senate’s Special Committee on Aging, reports an estimated $3 billion is lost annually to scams targeting seniors.
With U.S. individuals 65 years and over projected to reach 20% by 2025, opportunities to take advantage of these at-risk bank customers are growing by the minute. Due to these alarming trends, Waterford Bank, N.A. and the American Bankers Association are urging older Americans to take steps to protect their finances.
Never give your personal information away over the phone. Fraudsters will often try to take advantage of you claiming to be the IRS or other known organizations to trick you into giving them your Social Security Number or credit card information.
“Older Americans currently hold more than two-thirds of all U.S. deposits, making them highly susceptible to scams, exploitation and abuse,” said Corey Carlisle, ABA Foundation executive director. “It’s critical that seniors and their loved ones recognize the signs of financial abuse before it’s too late and get help immediately if they think they’ve been victimized.”
Tips To Protect Yourself
To help older Americans and their caregivers protect themselves or their loved ones from financial abuse, Waterford Bank, N.A. and the ABA Foundation is offering the following tips:
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters. Select someone who has your best interest at heart.
- Never give personal information, including your Social Security, account number or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
- Stay alert to common fraud schemes. Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances and make sure to lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
If you believe you are a victim of elder financial abuse, you have options. Contact your local Adult Protective Services, tell someone at your bank, or call your local police department for help.
Trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers often are very skilled. They can be charming and forceful in their effort to convince you to give up control of your finances.
For more tips on recognizing specific scams, check out these resources from the American Banker’s Association.