How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), approximately one in 10 Americans age 60 or above have experienced some form of elder abuse. Some estimates state that as many as five million elders are abused in the US every year. If the number of abuse victims remains constant, it is expected that the number of victims will continue to increase as the aging population grows, leading to as many as 320 million elder abuse victims by 2050.
While physical abuse, neglect, abandonment and emotional abuse are all frequent forms of elder abuse, the fastest growing form of abuse is elder financial abuse. The National Institute of Justice reports that independent elders are the most targeted group for this type of abuse, stating independent seniors are 66 percent more likely to be victims than those who are dependent.
In order for seniors to stay safe from elder financial abuse, it is important to understand the laws in place to protect older adults and the steps you can take to keep your elderly loved one’s financial information secure.
Laws to Protect the Elderly
As elder financial abuse becomes more common, and the internet provides new avenues for more creative scams, the laws are trying to keep up with the criminals. As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Elder Justice Act (EJA) passed in 2010 as the first piece of federal legislation designed to address elder abuse and exploitation.
In 2017, the Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act gave the Department of Justice (DOJ) the ability to combat elder abuse by taking the following steps:
- Creating an elder justice coordinator position in federal judicial districts, at the DOJ, and at the Federal Trade Commission
- Implementing comprehensive training on elder abuse for Federal Bureau of Investigation agents
- Operating a resource group to assist prosecutors in pursuing elder abuse cases
The law also requires the DOJ to collect data on elder abuse and investigations and to provide training and support to the individual states to prevent elder abuse. To keep up with the times, the law specifically targeted the growing area of email fraud by expanding the definition of telemarketing fraud to include email fraud. Thanks to this legislation prohibited actions now include email solicitations for investment for financial profit, participation in a business opportunity or commitment to a loan.
How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
While there are laws to protect the elderly, their money and their families, the best way to prevent elder abuse is to stop it before it starts. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) suggests taking small steps, such as remaining in frequent contact with elderly loved ones and making sure that no member of the family signs any documents without a complete understanding of the contents. Here are some additional suggestions for steps you can take to help prevent elder financial abuse:
- Designate a power of attorney with clear instructions for financial matters and health care decisions.
- Build an open and communicative relationship with doctors and caregivers who are regularly involved with your elderly loved one.
- Become a “trusted contact” — this will allow you to monitor bank account activity, as well as brokerage activity.
- Set up direct deposit for checks so there is no risk of others cashing the checks.
- Be on the lookout for funds or valuable possessions that disappear without explanation.
- Ask questions if a new individual has entered your loved one’s life and is attempting to make decisions or make changes.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) also encourages seniors to take matters into their own hands in preventing elder fraud. Elderly adults can protect themselves by taking steps such as:
- Ensure financial records are organized and understand how much money is in each account.
- Choose a trustworthy person to share in your financial planning and appointment them to handle matters if you are unable to do so yourself.
- Lock up your account statements, checkbook and other private information.
- Get all details in writing from any financial advisor or attorney and have the paperwork reviewed by another party before signing any documents.
- Pay with checks and credit cards when possible so you have a record of all transactions.
- Never provide personal information, such as account numbers or your Social Security number, to anyone over the phone or via email.
- Order copies of your credit report regularly and review them for suspicious activity.
Securing a Supportive Future
Support for your elderly loved ones is vital to keeping them safe and happy. In order to be confident that your loved one is cared for, secure from the threat of elder abuse and able to pursue their interests and hobbies, identifying the right living arrangement is paramount. At Carnegie Village, we provide a supportive environment complete with activities and adventures to provide your loved one with the fun and security they need. To learn more, schedule a tour of our community – we’d be glad to show you around!