Elder financial abuse, a crime that deprives elderly people of their resources and ultimately their independence and their health, is a growing crime in America. Consider these tips to protect yourself or someone you love from elder financial abuse.
• Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney or financial advisor about the best options for you.
• Never give personal information to anyone who phones you.
• Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
• Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing, and get a second opinion.
• Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
• Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances.
They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
• Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
• Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
• Feel free to say “no.” After all, it’s your money.
• You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services or tell someone at your bank.
• Trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers often are very skilled. They can be charming and forceful in their effort to convince you to give up control of your finances. Don’t be fooled — if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What to do if you are a victim of financial abuse:
• Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy.
• Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank.
• Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help.
What to do if you suspect financial abuse:
• Talk to elderly friends or loved ones if you see a change in a person’s established financial patterns. Try to determine what specifically is happening with their financial situation, such as a new person “helping” them with money management or a relative using cards or credit without their permission.
• Report the elder financial abuse to their bank, and enlist their banker’s help to stop it and prevent its recurrence.
• Contact Adult Protective Services in your town or state for help.
• Report all instances of elder financial abuse to your local police — if fraud is involved, they should investigate.
For more information, visit the National Committee to Prevent Elder Abuse’s website at www.preventelderabuse.org and click on “Financial Abuse.”
Information provided by Webster City Federal Savings Bank, 820 Des Moines St., Webster City, 515-832-3071, www.webcityfed.com.