Did you know that one in ten seniors experiences some form of financial abuse? Many people don’t realize how prevalent the problem is, but protecting yourself against senior financial abuse can be simple if you’re aware of some of the most common methods criminals employ targeting aging family members. Here are our top tips to avoid becoming a victim of this all-too-common crime.
Set Up Checks and Balances
By putting your assets into a trust, you can assign yourself or an independent trustee to ensure that you’re not being taken advantage of. If you’re already having trouble managing finances, take legal action to put someone in charge of your money that isn’t involved in your daily life. If no one is suitable, consider putting money into a long-term care insurance policy. You can also use credit monitoring services to identify suspicious purchases—the sooner something is flagged, the easier it will be to avoid losing severe amounts of money. The best defense against senior financial abuse is early detection!
Assign a Trusted Contact to Handle Accounts and Investments
If you have difficulty monitoring your finances due to age or mental impairment, it’s important to pick a trustworthy person who can assist. A good choice would be someone who already helps you with your day-to-day needs, such as a family member or close friend. Be clear about your wishes for managing your finances before problems arise—people are more likely to follow through when they know their responsibilities beforehand. If you become unable to make financial decisions on your own, you can include any pertinent information in a power of attorney document.
Track Your Bank Account, Investments, and Credit Cards Through a Service That Tracks Them
A service, in other words, that alerts you whenever someone withdraws money from your account or makes large purchases on a credit card in your name. Federal law limits these kinds of withdrawals and purchases to $50 without a signature, but if you’re going to be away from home for long periods or just aren’t paying attention, that’s not much protection. When completing any financial transaction that requires it, use an additional authentication method: Don’t use just one password to access all of your accounts online. Instead, use different passwords for each account and add an extra layer of security by entering a code from a cell phone app or a hardware key-drive whenever you need to log into something confidential.
Stay in Touch with Older Loved Ones
Because elder financial abuse often occurs in families, it can be easier to spot when other people are present. If you don’t live with an older loved one, try calling or emailing them at least once a week to see how they’re doing. This way, you can monitor their financial situation and help them report any suspicious behavior immediately.