The older adult population in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years and is expected to continue to increase in the years to come. Sadly, that increase has led to a corresponding increase in elder abuse. Elder abuse occurs in several forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse, and financial abuse. If you are the caretaker of an older person, it is imperative that you take steps to prevent elder financial abuse. Toward that end, the Essex Junction elder law attorneys at Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC discuss ways you can protect elderly loved ones from financial abuse.
Understanding Senior Financial Abuse
Elder financial abuse, or exploitation, can be defined very broadly as the illegal or improper use of an older person’s money or property. This type of elder abuse takes numerous forms and can occur under a wide variety of scenarios, including:
- Family members taking advantage of an elder person’s diminished capacity to either cajole, or outright steal, money or assets.
- A caregiver using a elder person’s money without permission or taking property from the individual’s home.
- A family member or caregiver getting an elderly individual to sign documents under false pretenses that transfer assets to the perpetrator, either now or after the elderly person’s death.
- Targeting an elderly individual for financial scams, over the telephone, through the mail, on the computer, or even in person.
Preventing Senior Financial Abuse
Often, it is up to the adult children or other caregivers of an elderly individual to take steps to prevent financial exploitation. If that includes you, the following steps may help protect your elderly loved one:
- Discuss the subject. One of the primary reasons why older individuals make such tempting victims is the simple fact that they tend to be more trusting. In addition, they often do not understand current technology, making it easier to scam them. Sit down with your loved one and have a very frank discussion about the issue. Impress upon them that there are a seemingly endless number of ways people can be victimized in today’s electronic age and that it is always better to be safe than sorry. If they are unsure about someone or something, talk to you first.
- Do not give out personal information over the phone. Predators know that the elderly tend to be more trusting. When someone calls and says they are from the bank, for example, an older individual is much more apt to take that claim at face value than his/her younger counterpart. There may have been a time when it was safe to give out personal information over the phone; however, if there was, it is over. Never give out a social security number, bank account information, passwords, or other personal information over the phone. If someone calls claiming to be someone who might have a legitimate need for personal information, tell them you will call them back. Find the correct number and call back yourself to find out if the call was legitimate.
- Beware of social media. The reality is that older individuals typically only have a rudimentary knowledge of how most social media platforms, such as Facebook or Twitter, operate. Privacy settings remain a mystery to the older generation. Predators are aware of this and use it to their advantage. You would be surprised at the amount of personal information a scam artist can gather just by following a victim on social media. That information is then used to run a scam. The easiest way to avoid this scam is to be vigilant about keeping privacy settings private. Doing so prevents the public from being able to see personal information.
- Be careful who is allowed inside the home. If help is needed around the house, conduct a background check on anyone allowed in the home. Do not assume that an agency has conducted a proper background check. Take the time to do one yourself to make sure the individual has the proper credentials and does not have a criminal history.
Contact an Essex Junction Elder Law Attorney
For more information, please attend one of our upcoming FREE webinars. If you have questions or concerns about elder financial abuse, contact an experienced Essex Junction elder law attorney at Unsworth LaPlante, PLLC by calling 802-879-7133 to schedule your appointment today.