Consider This: The elderly are often easy targets for criminals looking to take advantage. According to research from the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in nine elder adults reported being abused, neglected, or exploited in the past year. Financial exploitation was a particularly prevalent form of elder abuse, with one in 20 older adults indicating they had been in some way financially mistreated recently.
Financial institutions, such as credit unions, can play a vital role against financial elder abuse because they are required to file Suspicious Activity Reports for potential elderly exploitation. In addition, credit unions are normally familiar with their elderly members’ transaction patterns and are likely one of the first to notice if there is a change to the pattern.
But how do you prevent elder financial abuse in your loved ones or friends? In time for Elder Abuse Awareness Month, here are some tips.
Keep in contact. According to AARP, it is easier for criminals to step in and befriend elderly people when they’re lonely. Be sure to call and visit elderly friends and family members frequently. Establish yourself as a trustworthy presence for them to lean on if they find themselves worried or in trouble.
Remain vigilant. Keep an eye on the financial habits of your elderly friends and family members. Take note of large withdrawals, unusual requests for money, or alarming lapses in memory about major financial transactions. Remember that you don’t have to prove financial exploitation to report it. Your suspicion is enough.
Know your elderly relatives’ acquaintances. Get to know the nature of these interactions. Keep a close eye on anybody you don’t know well and track suspicious behavior in acquaintances and family members.
Have difficult conversations. It may be uncomfortable to ask an older relative about financial matters, especially if he or she has always been financially independent in the past. It might be equally difficult to approach a trusted relative about suspicious behavior toward an elderly acquaintance. While these issues might be sensitive, it’s important they’re brought to light.
Get professional help. A lawyer can work with elders to establish trusts and other financial arrangements that are difficult for criminals to breach, according to Money Crashers. Lawyers can also recommend mediators and counselors who can work with families experiencing tensions over the finances of an elderly relative.