Unfortunately, financial exploitation of the elderly is a frequent occurrence. Exploitation occurs when a person misuses or takes the assets of a vulnerable adult. This includes (but is not limited to) taking money or property, telemarketing scams; getting a senior to sign a deed, will or power of attorney unknowingly; forging a senior’s signature; fraud; or using a senior’s property or possessions without permission.
“Seniors are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse” said Jeff Gayman, senior vice president of retail banking and consumer lending for Orrstown Bank.
While bank employees are trained to identify red flags commonly associated with financial abuse, including unusual withdrawals or a new person accompanying the older customer to the bank, it’s important to be aware of what you can do to further protect yourself or your loved ones. Jeff Gayman of Orrstown Bank, along with Michael Giordano of Giordano Elder Law, share their expert tips for preventing financial exploitation of the elderly or anyone who has diminished capacity:
Always shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers.
- Never share your personal information over the phone or web. This includes social security numbers, account information, or personal details.
- Check your credit report at least once a year to ensure no new credit cards or accounts have been opened by criminals in your name. (To receive a free copy of your credit report, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228.)
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion from a trusted financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Prepare for the possibility that you may become unable to handle your finances. Make sure you have a Financial Durable Power of Attorney and name someone you trust to act as your agent.
- Consider limiting the mail and phone calls you receive from marketers by putting your phone on the Do Not Call registry (call 1-888-382-1222 or visit www.donotcall.gov).
- Closely monitor credit card bills and bank statements.
- Thoroughly research any financial advisers before using their services.
Not sure where to report an exploitation? Adult Protective Services (APS) is the primary agency to accept reports in most states. In Cumberland County, PA, call (717) 240-6192 and in Rockland County, NY, (845) 364-2020. Tips can also be submitted for PA residents electronically at www.ccpa.net/2750/Fraud-Abuse-Hotline-Online-Submission.
Your state Attorney General is another very good resource and most states have the ability to make a report online.
Have you or a loved one suffered financial abuse? Please post your story or suggestion to help others avoid financial exploitation of the elderly.
By Jamie Perry, Mechanicsburg Chamber of Commerce, Cumberland County, PA