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Tips to avoid financial elder abuse

The “Baby Boom” generation is growing, as an estimated 4 million people retire and begin receiving Medicare and Social Security benefits annually. Amidst all of the change baby boomers go through while getting an estate plan organized, planning ahead for long-term care costs and discussing nursing home options, it may be easy for them to fall victim to a financial scam.

Is elder financial abuse common?

The National Council on Aging estimates that elder financial abuse costs seniors nation-wide somewhere between $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion each year. As a result, politicians have imposed elder abuse laws that prohibit financial exploitation of vulnerable adults across the country.

Yet, it’s widely held that only one in 25 financial exploitation cases are reported. One of the reasons these crimes can easily go undetected is because they are often perpetrated by trusted individuals — even family members, friends or neighbors. Many victims are embarrassed, protective of loved ones, fearful or flat-out confused.

These precautionary tips may help your family avoid financial exploitation:

Facilitate an open discussion about the risk

  • Gently make your parents aware that they are likely to be a target of financial exploitation.
  • Establish that financial scams are extremely common, with attempts over the phone happening as frequently as multiple times per day.
  • Offer your counsel. Allow your parents to contact you with concerns they may have over potential financial threats.
  • Discuss who manages your parent’s money on a day-to-day basis. Do they need help?

Educate on best practices to avoid scams

  • Establish possible perpetrators of financial fraud, such as:
    • Door-to-door solicitors
    • Calls, text messages or emails from unknown numbers
    • Unstable relatives, friends or neighbors
    • Caregivers in hospitals, assisted living facilities or nursing homes
  • Warn your parents about people who want to be added to a bank account, change a will or otherwise gain access to personal information/finances. They have the right to refuse this, and should contact authorities if it happens.
  • Warn against signing documents without an attorney.
  • Advise using Google searches to determine if a retailer or organization is legitimate.
  • Warn against sharing passwords or keeping them out in the open.
  • Advise your parents against sharing their Social Security numbers with anyone.
  • Put your parent’s phone number on the Commission’s National do-not-call registry. You can also purchase smartphone applications that may help block spam calls.
  • Review how your parents can monitor their bank account for new or unusual credit card changes or cash withdrawals. Otherwise, set up an appointment for your parents to review their account with their banker.
  • Teach your parents about technological advancements that may make scams easier, such as Google’s AI demo for an automatic assistant that interacts with people naturally.
  • Advise against agreeing to any verbal or written proposal they do not fully understand—especially if they sound too good to be true.

It can be difficult to know what to do after your parents become financial fraud victims. You can decrease the likelihood of an incident occurring by facilitating an open discussion with your parents about the threat and risks of financial abuse. Sitting down and talking through the protective measures they can take will also help them be prepared to handle a financial exploitation attempt if it does occur.

If you or your parents still hold concerns, attorneys in Pennsylvania can help explain the current laws put in place to help seniors who have been subject to attempts or instances of elder abuse.

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