Financial Elder Abuse Awareness
Prevent Elder Abuse: Recognize the Signs and Common Scams
No matter how careful you are, anyone can become a victim of financial fraud. However, older adults are particularly at risk. Those who commit elder fraud range from loved ones—family members, friends, or caregivers—to complete strangers. In its financial form, elder abuse is the exploitation of senior citizens to gain access to their property, investments, cash, or real estate.
Please familiarize yourself with the common scams, red flags, and tips listed below. You could prevent a loved one from becoming a victim.
"Hi Grandma! It's your favorite grandkid calling, and I need your help." Many seniors find it difficult to resist pleas like this and are more than willing to immediately wire money to their "grandchild" in need. The most important thing to do in this scenario is to verify the caller. Most scammers will plead with their "grandparent" not to tell anyone, but if you receive a call like this the fastest way to determine if the request is real is to contact another family member. Do not wire money or provide a credit card number until you've verified the identity of the caller.
"Free" Prize or Cruise Calls
Scammers call to inform an elderly consumer that they've won a sweepstakes prize or free cruise-they just need to send a "processing fee" or "cover shipping costs" to collect their winnings or tickets. Sometimes, these callers go straight to asking for credit card or bank account numbers. The best way to avoid this scam is to simply hang up. It is illegal to charge a fee to enter a sweepstakes. If the caller says you've won a cruise, ask what cruise line is involved and then verify the contest.
This type of scam is especially popular after a well-publicized natural disaster. The scammer solicits "donations" and sometimes provides official-looking documents to prove the charity exists. When donating money, it's best to go through a well-known company and verify the organization or charity through the Better Business Bureau.
Red Flags for Abuse
The number one tactic used by perpetrators is to separate the victim from family and/or friends who would stop the abuse. Watch for victims to stop attending social events or even disconnect their phone line.
Changes in Spending Habits
Drastic changes in account balances or unusually flamboyant purchases like cars and real estate are a sign that the senior citizen is not the person in charge of their finances. Keep a close eye on lavish "gifts" to new friends or acquaintances.
Unfamiliar Names on Joint Accounts
Sometimes perpetrators convince their victims that they will help them organize their finances by creating a joint account. In reality, this gives the perpetrator unlimited access to the victim's funds. If a senior citizen wants another person to manage their finances, they should use a Power of Attorney (POA) account instead, which puts a legal obligation on the co-signer to protect the elderly person's interests.
If you notice these warning signs, what should you do about it? Visit ReportElderAbuseWI.org for more information about elder abuse and how to report it.
Tips to Protect Elders
Secure Your Valuables
Secure all of your valuables in a bank safety deposit box. These valuables include your Social Security card, passport, credit card account numbers, financial statements, medical records, will and other legal documents.
Do Not Share Account Details
Never give financial information to callers claiming to be from established organizations such as a bank, credit card company or fundraising organization, particularly if they ask you to send money or private information. If you are concerned about your bank account, contact Bank of Prairie du Sac directly.
Monitor Your Bank Account
Check your bank accounts and bill statements carefully. If you notice unauthorized charges, alert Bank of Prairie du Sac immediately. Do not give your personal information, such as bank account numbers or PINs, to anyone in a phone call, letter, email, fax or text message.
Source: Wisconsin Bankers Association, Independent Community Bankers of America®, and the Senior Housing Crime Prevention Foundation