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Elder Abuse: Financial Fraud and Prevention

Your 1+1 Team
January 11, 2021

Signs of Elder Abuse: How to Prevent Fraud and What to Do if You Are Scammed?

In this series, we look at a real and persistent threat facing seniors: financial fraud, scams, and signs of elder abuse. In the first post, we shared some of the most common scams to be aware of. This second post provides tips to help protect you and your loved one from fraud. This includes several resources to consult in the event you fall victim to a scam. In the upcoming third post, we’ll look specifically at how technology is leveraged to perpetrate fraud among the elderly abuse.

At 1+1 Cares, we know that the aging journey is challenging, beautiful, and complex. As the adult children and family of aging loved ones, we all try our best to ensure that our seniors are comfortable, cared for, and engaged. But there’s one real and persistent threat that is often neglected until it’s too late: elder abuse.

Elder abuse can take many forms, including physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, and emotional abuse. Today, we also, unfortunately, see far too many cases of elder financial abuse. This is the illegal taking, misuse, or concealment of funds, property, or other assets of a senior, for the benefit of someone else. According to AARP and the National Adult Protective Services Association, most cases of elder financial abuse go unreported—only 1 in 44 cases are ever reported.

In this post, we share some of the measures you can take to protect your loved one. We also share several resources to consult in the event your family member is the victim of a financial scam.

The Current Threat of Elder Financial Abuse

What complicates the situation is that often elder financial abuse is perpetrated by someone familiar to the victim. A whopping 90 percent of scams are committed by someone the victim knows well. Scammers can be (or pose as):

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Unvetted, untrustworthy caregivers
  • Agents with power of attorney
  • Telephone or internet scammers
  • Fraudulent financial advisors
  • Home repair contractors or other service providers

It paints quite a scary picture. However, the good news is that there are preventative, protective measures you can take. There are also resources to help your loved one recover should they fall victim to a scam.

The threat of elder financial abuse is especially present now, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Your loved one may be cut off from people who previously ensured protection from these scams. On top of this, many bank branches remain closed. People are shifting from in-person financial services to online or remote support. This can complicate things, especially if navigating the internet and digital or mobile technologies is new to your loved one.

In general, the best thing you and your loved can do is be proactive, organized, and aware. In knowing what scams to look for—and what to do if you suspect a scam—you can best safeguard your loved one.

How to Protect Yourself From Financial Fraud?

The National Council on Aging shares eight tips to help protect your loved one from elder financial abuse. We encourage you to share this information with your family. These tips are summarized here:

  1. Be aware of the risks. Communicate to your loved one the risks they face. Everyone is at risk—even family members with limited assets or income. Often, it may be helpful for your loved one to hear a clear and meaningful example.
    1. For example, just this year, two individuals in Florida orchestrated a grandparent scam on elderly victims. They called households claiming to be a relative. They said that they had been arrested and needed money for bail. The perpetrators even rented a vehicle to travel to the victims house to collect the money in person, posing as a courier. The total losses the elderly victims suffered? A staggering $383,932!
  2. Isolation contributes to the problem. This is especially true amidst the pandemic, when so many of our loved ones are home, alone. Often, elder financial abuse (as well as other forms of abuse) happens in these isolated environments. Encourage your loved one to connect with you and others, even if just virtually. A trusted and qualified caregiver referred by 1+1 Cares can also help fill this void. Often, it may be as simple as being present at the time of any scheduled home repairs or deliveries.
  3. Ask for things in writing. Advise your loved one to never buy from unfamiliar companies or announced solicitors. It’s OK to ask for further details before committing to a purchase or a service. This might be a salesperson’s name and contact information. It’s also OK to take your time when making purchases. A vetted caregiver referred by 1+1 Cares can assist your loved one in obtaining this information.
    1. NOTE: The same applies to charitable donations. Scammers often used familiar channels (like the phone or face-to-face interactions) to solicit fraudulent donations. It’s a sad scam that preys upon the goodwill of your loved one. Ask for detailed information about the charity first. A family member or trusted caregiver can help seniors research charity online. Or contact the National Association of State Charity Officials to see if the charity or fundraiser is registered in your state. Encourage your loved one to keep a record of all donations made.
  4. If possible, shred things that contain personal information. This might include receipts that show your credit card number or other personal details. This can help prevent identity theft. If this is physically difficult or dangerous, a trusted caregiver can help your loved one shred these documents.
  5. Get on the “Do Not Call” list. Doing so will remove your name from unwanted mailing lists. Visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call registry to take action here. A caregiver can help your loved one get on the right list. On a related note, encourage your family member not to leave mail unattended in their mailbox for long periods of time.
  6. Encourage direct deposit. If your loved one receives paper checks, encourage them to explore direct deposit alternatives. This will help keep important financial information from lingering in a mailbox or being intercepted by scammers.
  7. Be careful what you share. Advise your family member to never give banking, Social Security, Medicare, or personal information over the phone, unless they initiated the call.
  8. In general, remain skeptical of unsolicited offers. Help your loved one research any offers, purchasing agreements, or contracts before committing to anything.

What to do When You See The Signs of Elder Abuse?

If you or your loved one does, unfortunately, fall victim to elder financial abuse, consider turning to one of these resources for help. Encourage your family member to communicate these concerns or activities with you and other trusted family members. Often, seniors may feel afraid or embarrassed to talk about this. Some may fear retaliation or a loss of independence if they report a suspected scam. Denial or confusion can also hinder this important conversation.

Remind them that they are not alone. It’s a real and scary threat, and there are people out there who can help.

NOTE: Depending on the severity or situation, don’t hesitate to contact local police officials before consulting some of these resources. They may even be able to connect you with the proper local authorities for follow-up.

  • Report an incident: In many cases, the best move is to contact Adult Protective Services. These are often part of your county or state department of social services. Use the Eldercare Locator to locate a local service, or call 800-677-1116.
  • Report an identity theft incident: In the event of suspected identity theft, contact your local police and the FTC at 877-438-4338 or identitytheft.gov.
  • Learn more: Seek support from experts, both nationally and locally. Elder abuse prevention laws exist in all 50 states. There are numerous resources available. In California, for example, you can consult the Adult Protective Services County Contact List (updated winter 2020).
  • Be proactive: Help your loved one monitor their financial activity with a credit check. You can keep track of credit ratings as well as check for unusual activity at the Annual Credit Report.
  • Freeze credit: You can help seniors request free credit blocks or freezes through all three major credit bureaus. Remember, though, that your loved one must go through the process of unfreezing their credit if they want to legitimately apply for a loan or line of credit. All three bureaus maintain web pages dedicated to security freezes:
  • Learn more: On Guard Online has interactive games to encourage smarter consumers. Many of the activities are related to spyware, lottery scams, and other threats.
  • Reach out to an expert: If your loved one invests money, consider reaching out to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. It offers a new toll-free helpline (844-57-HELPS) for questions from seniors about brokerage accounts, statements, and individual investments.
  • Learn more: The FTC also offers a clear and helpful resource for spotting elder financial abuse and protecting older adults from fraud and exploitation.

TIP: Be wary of “emergencies”. Scammers often claim an emergency or “fleeting offer” and will pressure your loved one to act quickly, without thinking. The same can be true of charities that form too quickly following a natural disaster or current event.

Why not practice a bit to better understand the financial fraud threat landscape?

Money Smart for Older Adults is a resource from the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. In it are several activities that you or a caregiver could do with your loved one. Each activity focuses on a specific threat (like telephone or charity scams). Here’s an example:

  • SCENARIO 2: A few weeks after Jane used a prepaid card to transfer money to the scammer, she received a call from a person claiming to be an attorney representing sweepstakes winners. The attorney offered to recover the winnings for Jane but she would have to pay him a $7,000 fee upfront.
  • QUESTION: What should Jane do?

A Trusted Caregiver Can Be an Ally and Defender Against Fraud

Your loved one might currently have an in-home caregiver who provides as-needed services or live-in or 24-hour care. One of the most effective ways to ensure that the caregiver does not engage in elder financial abuse is through careful vetting. If you’re currently exploring your in-home caregiving options, keep this critical consideration in mind. Be sure to ask if your caregiver carries the proper liability insurance and can provide extensive references. Not all agencies will offer this, especially if you go with a stand-alone or private-found care provider. It’s a critical step, but it can be time-consuming and challenging.

1+1 Cares Elderly Care Services:

1+1 Cares proactively seeks to prevent elder financial exploitation among the qualified caregivers we refer. We take critical measures to safeguard your loved ones. At 1+1 Cares, we are your ally and a line of defense against elder financial elderly abuse. We have a stringent vetting process for every caregiver that we refer you to. 1+1 Cares is a referral platform and service for home care assistance, meaning that we screen every interested caregiver and do an end-to-end background check on everyone. To be included in our referral service, caregivers must have a minimum of two years of experience or one year with CNA/HHA. For further security and protection, we do a criminal background check and also verify:

  • Work eligibility in the U.S.
  • Sufficient liability insurance
  • Current driving insurance
  • Driving record
  • References

We also do face-to-face interviews (or virtual face-to-face, these days) to ensure that every caregiver who is included in our referral service is a solid partner not just for 1+1 Cares, but for you.

We hope that this post provides some helpful information about elder financial abuse and how to identify signs of elder abuse. The health, safety, and wellbeing of your loved one are of utmost concern to the entire 1+1 Cares team. This includes the qualified caregivers we refer you to. At 1+1 Cares, we aim to make this process easy and affordable. Referring you to a qualified caregiver is our way to relieve some of your stress and uncertainty. This includes protecting your loved one from financial fraud and other scams.

OUR FINAL TIP: Why not print a copy of this post and keep it in an accessible place? This way, your family or a trusted caregiver will be better prepared to take action, should you need to.

Please get in touch with us today!

In the next and final post in this series, we’ll look specifically at how technology is leveraged to perpetrate fraud among the elderly.

 

1+1 Cares by serving as a family’s caregiving concierge.  1+1 Cares is a unique platform that synergizes premium service, qualified caregivers, and affordable rates.  By empowering families to make the right decisions, 1+1 Cares makes in-home care affordable and accessible.  1+1 Cares about you.

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