Protecting Your Finances: Safeguarding Against Financial Elder Abuse
As we age, our financial well-being becomes increasingly important. Unfortunately, there are individuals who prey on vulnerable senior citizens, seeking to exploit their assets and financial security. This act, known as financial elder abuse, is a growing concern that can result in significant financial losses and emotional distress.
Financial elder abuse refers to the illegal or improper use of an elderly person's funds, property, or assets. It can occur through various forms, including scams, embezzlement, undue influence such as pressuring someone to change their will, and identity theft.
It is crucial to remain vigilant and recognize the red flags that may indicate financial elder abuse. A common warning sign is sudden or unexplained changes in financial situation or inability to meet basic needs. This can include abrupt alterations in banking patterns, such as unexplained withdrawals or transfers. Uncharacteristic spending habits, or a sudden unexplained decrease in the individual's standard of living related to unpaid bills, eviction notices, or discontinuation of essential utilities may also suggest that someone is mishandling the elder's finances.
An elder who becomes socially isolated, appears fearful or submissive in the presence of certain individuals, or suddenly relinquishes control over their finances to someone without a valid reason should also raise concerns. Isolation can include restricted access to financial information by caregivers or family members, or an unwillingness to discuss financial matters or evasiveness when questioned.
Other indications of possible financial abuse include missing valuables, drastic alterations to legal documents, such as wills, trusts, or power of attorney, and suspicious signatures on documents or unauthorized use of the elder's credit cards or accounts.
Taking proactive steps can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to financial exploitation. Consider implementing the following strategies:
- Stay Informed: Educate yourself about common scams and fraudulent practices targeting seniors. Stay updated on the latest techniques used by scammers and share this knowledge with your family and friends.
- Safeguard Personal Information: Be cautious with your personal information, including social security numbers, bank account details, and passwords. Avoid sharing sensitive information with unfamiliar individuals or over insecure communication channels.
- Establish a Support Network: Maintain open lines of communication with family members, close friends, or trusted advisors. Connect with reliable professionals, including attorneys, financial advisors, and accountants, who can provide guidance and support. Having a support system helps ensure that others are aware of your financial activities and can intervene if necessary.
- Review Financial Statements Regularly: Monitor your bank statements, investment accounts, and credit reports frequently for any unusual or unauthorized transactions. Report any discrepancies to your financial institution immediately.
- Execute Legal Documents Wisely: Consult with an attorney to create a will, power of attorney, or advanced healthcare directive. Review these documents periodically to ensure they reflect your wishes accurately and make changes if necessary.
If you suspect that you or a loved one has fallen victim to financial elder abuse, take immediate steps to secure your financial accounts. Change passwords, cancel unauthorized credit cards, and consider placing a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent further exploitation.
Create a record of all suspicious activities, including dates, descriptions, and individuals involved. Collect supporting documents like financial statements or forged signatures, if possible. These documents will be crucial for any investigation or legal action.
Contact your local Adult Protective Services agency or law enforcement to report the suspected abuse. Provide them with the collected evidence and any additional information that could aid in their investigation. You should also consult an attorney, or a trusted financial advisor experienced in elder law or estate planning. They can guide you through the necessary legal processes and help protect your interests.
In conclusion, financial elder abuse is a distressing reality that demands our attention. By being informed, vigilant, and proactive, seniors and their families can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to financial exploitation. Stay alert for warning signs, protect your personal information, and seek assistance if you suspect financial elder abuse. Together, we can safeguard our financial well-being and protect our senior citizens from harm. Union State Bank provides additional information regarding financial fitness on their website, www.MyUnionState.Bank.
About Union State Bank: Founded in 1908, Union State Bank has banking locations serving communities of Arkansas City, Newton, Udall, Winfield, and Wichita in Kansas and in Bartlesville and Edmond, Oklahoma. Union State Bank offers a full range of electronic, deposit and cash management services, as well as business and agriculture, commercial real estate, construction, mortgage, residential and consumer loans. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender, NMLS# 412388.