The further we get into the digital information age, it seems, the more opportunities there are for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of innocent people. Elders are particularly at risk for these schemes and scams, as they haven’t grown up with the technology of the day and tend to be more trusting and less suspicious of others.
Awareness is the first line of defense against these scams, and you can help to keep your senior family members safe. Learn how to protect your senior loved ones from elder fraud, and the steps to take if they do become a victim of a phone or online scam.
Elder fraud and abuse is epidemic in our country, with senior citizens losing hundreds of thousands of dollars combined every year to caregiver abuse and scams perpetrated in person, online and over the phone. About 20% of those who have elderly loved ones are worried about potential financial abuse, and around 11% of those over 65 years of age are worried about the risk.
It's not just strangers, either. The vast majority of elder financial abuse is perpetrated by friends and family, with victims losing up to $30,000 on average, with roughly 10% of victims suffering losses in excess of $100,000.
Protecting Against Financial Abuse
There’s an old saying that a good defense is the best offense, and it’s true when it comes to financial abuse as well. Preparing for the eventuality can stop it cold if it does threaten to occur. Follow these steps to prepare your defense in advance:
- Prepare Your Paperwork: Make sure that by the age of 70 at the latest, you have your estate plan, your will, any healthcare directives, and other financial asset protections in place so in case you suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, your loved ones are prepared.
- New Friends May Not Be Friendly: When a senior loved one suddenly has a brand-new bestie, this can be a red flag. Be very wary of new people in your senior’s life—especially those that are a lot younger than them.
- Use Technology: Monitor your loved one’s finances, and teach them to do the same. Technology can be as much of a defense against abuse as it can lead to fraud. Use financial monitoring software and apps.
- The Second Set of Eyes: Don’t trust just a single family member to monitor accounts. Keep multiple sets of eyes on it, to minimize the temptation to steal.
- Talk to Them: Just talk to your elderly loved ones. This is so critical to protecting them. Often, they just want someone to ask them how things are going, to feel valued. They might actually welcome the help in reviewing and overseeing their finances.
If you do suspect your elder loved one is the victim of a scam, fraud or financial abuse, your best bet is to immediately call the authorities and report the incident. Then, if possible, get them out of the situation. From there, you can seek advice on how to get justice for the abuse they’ve suffered
Estate Planning Attorneys
Some elder fraud revolves around estate planning. This can be helped with the advice of a qualified estate planning attorney. At Tanko Law, we have years of experience protecting the assets of seniors, and we’ll be happy to talk to you and get started on the path of solid estate planning for your loved ones, too. Give us a call for more information today.