One in five seniors, ages 65 and older, have been victimized by financial fraud. In fact, seniors as a whole lose at least $2.9 billion each year because of financial exploitation. Below we’ve listed ways to stop financial fraud on the elderly in order to help prevent someone you love from becoming a victim.
Engage family members in discussion. Six in ten seniors are worried about burdening their family with managing their finances, but statistics show eight in ten children would like to help their parents. The number one reason: to protect them from fraud. This can happen to anyone regardless of your level of education and wealth. The first way to keep elders protected is to sit down and have a discussion about the finances. If it’s a difficult subject to talk about, the best thing you can advise is that having a second pair of eyes is an extra safeguard, or recommending a trusted financial advisor for help.
Create a family financial management plan. In case of an emergency, you should know who your parent’s financial professionals and trusted advisors are and have access to their contact information. You should always have contact with someone who sees your parents on a regular basis to make sure there’s not a sudden change in behavior. Sometimes with financial fraud and abuse, elders are solicited and suddenly the UPS truck is pulling up more frequently than it used to. It’s a good idea to stay in contact with a trusted neighbor who might notice strange activity.
Review current documents and established financial plans. You might consider having a financial power of attorney to know what key documents have been completed. This way you’ll have assistance to investigate money matters. Also, be alert to changes in financial accounts. You never know when someone might sway a loved-one to invest or buy a product they don’t need. This is why it’s important to watch for warning signs, such as not knowing what bills have been paid, spending habit fluctuations, bounced checks and late payment charges. If possible, attend meetings with your parents and their financial professionals to ensure the documents and designations are correctly in place.
Educate. It’s best to teach our elders about recent scams. AARP’s free Fraud Watch Network can help keep everyone plugged in. Never reply to any request by email, regular mail or phone for personal information, including a social security or credit card number. Isolation often triggers financial problems, especially when parents live in different cities. Maintaining social connections is crucial to keeping parents safe from fraud.
Consider assigning money management jobs. If there are multiple siblings, everyone can help take on duties and work together with the parent. There are tools you can use to monitor accounts that send suspicious activity alerts, warnings for unusual withdrawals, missing deposits, odd charges, etc. You might consider selecting someone to look for alerts. Your trusted advisors can help you decide the best resources to use. Scheduling a family financial meetings on a regular basis can give everyone an extra feeling of security and peace.
Source: Fidelity Investments