Financial exploitation of seniors is an increasing problem (National Center on Elder Abuse), including cases where money is stolen directly from a senior’s bank account. The research company Gartner Inc. estimates that two million people in the United States have had money stolen from their bank accounts in the past year. The average amount lost was $1,200.
We often think that fraud is committed by people we don’t know who gain access to our personal information. While that can be true, for seniors, the reality is greater that a family member or caregiver is the one who takes advantage of them financially. A survey done by the Adult Protective Services agencies showed that the most common financial abuser was a son or daughter, accounting for 33% of the reported cases of fiscal exploitation of seniors age 60 or over.
Red flags for financial abuse to seniors, as reported by the National Association for Professional Geriatric Care Managers, include:
• Someone is responsible for paying bills for the senior, but the bills are not paid and there are not adequate resources to pay for them.
• Unexplained money missing from the senior’s accounts.
• Family member/caregiver withdrawing large amounts of money from accounts.
• Someone taking money under false pretenses.
• Seniors are forced to make property transfers or transfers that are completed through lies or deceit.
If multiple people are involved in the care of a loved one, a plan for managing the money and putting safeguards in place is even more important. If each person providing care for the senior has access to the bank account for his or her part of the care, spotting fraud in the account would be challenging. If possible, designate one person to oversee the account, pay bills and provide money or reimbursements to the people involved in the senior’s care. That way, all money goes through one place and can be track easily.
Consistently monitor bank accounts and immediately report any suspicious activity to your financial institution for their help in remedying the situation. A good bank will respond quickly to any questionable transactions and help you recover lost funds. Protecting your finances by setting up a sound bank account and banking system for yourself or a loved one is a proven way to avoid fraud by family members, caregivers, or strangers.
Wayne Zussman is a Certified Financial Planner™ and President of Triton Wealth Management, a fee-only financial planning and investment firm. Triton has offices in Annapolis, Kent Island and Gaithersburg, MD. Wayne can be reached at 410-202-2110 or firstname.lastname@example.org