This post is a PSA. Those of you who know me well (or read this blog regularly) know that I have spent a considerable amount of of time and energy trying to help people prevent elder financial abuse. The elderly in the United States lose an estimated $2.6 billion annually due to elder financial abuse and exploitation. Today is the eighth annual Elder Abuse Awareness Day, which seems like an appropriate time to suggest a few simple steps you can take to help protect your loved ones from elder financial abuse.
1. If his or her bank offers the opportunity (and is in North Carolina), ask your loved one to provide the bank with a list of trusted persons to whom the bank may speak in the case of suspicious activity. I've written and spoken about this topic frequently, and you can read my comments here, here, here, here and here.
2. Encourage your loved one to talk to an elder law attorney about naming a trustworthy person as attorney-in-fact to look after your loved one's interests. Discourage your loved one from granting a power of attorney to anyone who is not 100% trustworthy and competent.
3. A small number of unscrupulous telemarketers prey on the elderly. One way to reduce the potential for this kind of abuse it to put your loved one's telephone number(s) on the national Do Not Call registry by filling out the form available here.
4. Social media is not just for young people. Many older adults have social media accounts these days. Fraudsters sometimes use information gathered from social media to help them perpetrate frauds, such as spearphishing attacks. Ask your loved ones to allow you to set privacy settings on their social media accounts so that strangers (and anyone else they shouldn't trust) will not be able to gain access to information that would help in such attacks.
5. Encourage your loved one to obtain their free annual credit report and help them review the report for evidence of identity theft. I have written about how to get a free credit report (as well as how to respond to identity theft) here.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope this information will help you as you try to protect your loved ones from the growing threat of elder financial exploitation.