Your elderly parents have made some financial missteps. Now, it's your turn to help them overcome the financial fraud they have experienced. Don't judge them. It's better to empathize, because your loving and vulnerable parents have joined the ranks of the estimated 7 million U.S. senior citizens who are victims of financial fraud.
It's not easy to accept that your parents have been taken advantage of financially, and, sometimes, it's more difficult to get your parents to admit that they've made some financial blunders that affected their life savings. They may be embarrassed, or even don't grasp the seriousness of such a situation.
Survey: 17 percent seniors are victims
According to a 2016 survey by the nonprofit Investor Protection Trust, 17 percent of America's 41.4 million senior citizens reported they were taken advantage of financially in matters related to inappropriate investments, high fees for financial services and fraud. Another portion of the survey declared that 78 percent of those 65 and older handle their own finances.
Steps to take to protect your parents
As it turns out, many more of senior citizens just may need someone else to help guide them with their finances, especially if they have made mistakes. If you suspect that your elderly parents have become financial abuse victims, here are some things to do:
- Don't ignore what's happening. You can't remain silent and watch from a distance as your parents are being ripped off.Maintain regular communication with your parents. Begin conversations about their finances. That way your parents may be more open to seeking advice and guidance from you before they make a costly mistake.
- Educate your parents about financial scams, and let them know to trust their instincts. If something doesn't seem right, then don't pursue it. Hang up the telephone if you receive a suspicious call from a scam artist. Don't let others know your Social Security number.
- Listen to your parents and their concerns.
- Have empathy for your parents. It's not productive to get angry at victims of financial abuse.
- Report all incidents to the police department.
- Review credit card reports, bank statements, insurance policies and investments for any suspicious activity. Help your parent alert credit-card companies, banks and other financial firms.
- If matters have become serious, you may have to seek and gain power of attorney for your parents to manage their financial affairs.
- Consider changing or unlisting landline and cellphone numbers. This may protect the victim from additional abuse.
And remember that most elderly financial abuse is committed by family members. Yes, this is a painful fact. Blood relative or not, if you discover your parents are being manipulated by family members, you must assert yourself. Confront the alleged abuser and report it to authorities.
If you observe or suspect suspicious financial activity related to your aging parents, take action. No matter what. You won't only be providing financial support, but emotional support as well.