FINANCIAL ELDER ABUSE Tips to protect yourself from exploitation

By Diane Arruda
More and more seniors are affected by scams each day. Financial elder abuse is on the rise as scammers take advantage of this generation. Financial elder abuse is a type of elder abuse in which misappropriation of financial resources or abusive use of financial control, in the context of a relationship where there is an expectation of trust, causes harm to an older person.
The Older Americans Act of 2006 defines elder financial abuse, or financial exploitation, as the fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized or improper act or process of an individual, including a caregiver or fiduciary, that uses the resources of an older individual or monetary for personal benefit, profit, or gain, or that results in depriving an older individual of rightful access to, or use, of benefits, resources, belongings or assets.
is more troublesome is that in the majority of cases, this type of abuse is committed by family members or close friends of the victims. Family members engaged in financial abuse of the elderly may include spouses, children or grandchildren. They may engage in this because they feel justified, for instance, they are taking what they might later inherit or have a sense of “entitlement” due to a negative personal relationship with the older person, or that it is somehow the price of a promise of lifelong care. They may take money or property to prevent other family members from getting the money or for fear that their inheritance may be lost due to cost of treating illnesses.
According the National Adult Protective Services (APS) Association, one in 20 older adults claim some sort of financial mistreatment. One in 44 cases of financial abuse gets reported and 90 percent of financial exploitation is perpetrated by a family member or trusted person.
Financial scams that target the elderly continue to be a huge problem in the U.S. It’s estimated that one in five Americans over the age of 65 are scammed out of roughly $36 billion every year.
Outlined below are some of the scams we have seen happening in our area:

  1. Computer Tech Support Scams. The basic scam involves fraudsters trying to gain the trust of victims by pretending to be associated with a well-known technology company such as Microsoft, Apple or Dell. They falsely claim that the victim’s computer has been infected with a virus. The fraudster often demands that the victim pay for bogus tech-support services through a wire transfer or obtain passwords to gain access to the victim’s online banking service, giving them access to financial accounts.
  2. IRS Impersonation Scam. Generally the fraudsters will accuse the victim of owing back taxes and penalties. They then threaten retaliation, such as homeforeclosure, arrest, and in some cases, deportation, if immediate payment is not made by a certified check, credit card, wire transfer, prepaid debit card, or gift card.
  3. Romance Scams. These calls are from fraudsters who typically create a fake online dating profile to attract a victim. Once the fraudster has gained the victim’s trust over weeks, months or even years, the fraudster request money to pay for an unexpected bill, an emergency, or another alleged expense or to come visit the victim — a trip that will never occur.
  4. Unsolicited Phone Calls. Do not give out personal information in response to an incoming call. Identity thieves are clever and they often pose as representatives of financial institutions, credit card companies, creditors or government agencies to convince victims to reveal their account numbers, Social Security numbers, mothers’ maiden names, passwords and other identifying information.
  5. Grandparent Scams. In these scams the fraudsters call a senior pretending to be a family member, often a grandchild, and claim to be in urgent need of money to cover an emergency, medical care, or legal problem.

Common characteristics of financial abusers: Fraudsters force you to make decisions fast and may threaten you. Fraudsters disguise their real numbers, using fake caller IDs. Fraudsters sometimes pretend to be the government (e.g. IRS). Fraudsters try to get you to provide them with your personal information like your Social Security number, and/or your bank account numbers. Before giving out your credit card or money, please ask a friend or family member about it. Be aware of anything that sounds too good to be true, such as free travel.
Here are some tips on how to avoid being taken by a fraudster: Plan ahead to protect your assets and ensure that your wishes are followed. Discuss options with a licensed financial advisor. Consult with an attorney before signing anything you don’t understand or changing your Power of Attorney, wills, etc. Build relationships with financial professionals from the institutions you bank with. They can assist you in monitoring for suspicious activity. Leave a paper trail by using checks and credit cards instead of cash. If you are unsure of the situation or confused, say “No.” Remember, it is your money. Research the situation or ask for details in writing before making any commitments. Report suspicions to a trusted person. If you are a victim of financial elder abuse, please contact the Adult Protective Services in your area as well as your local law enforcement agencies.