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senior-living-blog-2-proposals-to-halt-elder-financial-abuseIt is estimated that five million elders are exploited each year in the U.S, costing them $36.5 billion annually. Yet, studies show that only 1 in 14 cases are reported to the authorities. As a group, the elderly control a large amount of the country’s wealth, and this makes them a prime target for con artists.

Financial abuse of an elder is the illegal or improper use of their money, property or assets. There are various forms of abuse, such as taking money or property, forging signatures, coercion or deception, prize-winning scams and many more.

Perpetrators of elder financial abuse are often family members, friends, caregivers or the common predatory scammer. But the result is usually the same. The victim is robbed of his or her savings or income and left in despair. An 86 year-old resident in Seattle was tricked out of her savings after writing numerous checks totaling more than $217,000 to a supposed friend. Unfortunately, she did not confess the situation to her granddaughter until it was too late; she lost her home and now lives in a retirement community.

Because elder financial abuse can be difficult to uncover, the Office of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Banks are partnering with other state agencies and industry groups to develop and implement measures to raise awareness of the signs and risk factors of elder financial exploitation. This will include training and resources for financial institutions and consumer-focused educational materials available and promoted in elder-focused communities. The Division of Banks will also review advertising, marketing, and related practices of reverse mortgage lenders to detect deceptive practices and ensure elders are able to make informed decisions.

Signs of elder financial abuse:

  • Frequent large withdrawals from bank accounts, including daily maximum currency withdrawals from an ATM;
  • Inconsistent debit transactions or unusual attempts to wire large sums of money;
  • Closing of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties;
  • Large withdrawals from previously inactive accounts;
  • Items and personal property missing from home;
  • The appearance of forged or suspicious signatures;
  • New friends or caregivers, particularly those who are granted access to finances;
  • Sudden changes made in wills.

Many of these cases can be prevented with these steps on the part of both elders and their loved ones:

  • Never share personal information over the telephone or by email. This includes driver’s licenses, credit card information, passport information, social security numbers, bank statements, etc.
  • Carefully review bank and credit card statements. If you see anything suspicious, contact your financial institution.
  • If you need help with your finances, discuss your options with your financial institution. Determine whether there are safeguards that can be put in place to ensure proper financial management.
  • Destroy or shred all account statements and bills before you throw them away. Sadly, many thieves will sort through household trash to find documents with personal or financial information on them.
  • Know where to get help. If you feel like you may be a victim or know someone who was victimized by elder financial abuse, contact the local police and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs: http://www.mass.gov/elders/

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

 

 

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