Financial Exploitation is any action which involves the misuse of an individual’s funds or property. Many people fall victim to financial exploitation by people that they know – paid caregivers, neighbors and even relatives. Sadly, the majority of victims are exploited by people they know than by con artists who are strangers. The results can be emotionally and financially devastating. Victims are usually older adults and are often too ashamed or embarrassed to report what was happened to them. The signs of Financial Exploitation may be subtle or blatantly obvious.
Examples of Financial Exploitation include:
- Coercing or threatening someone into giving away money.
- Charging excessive fees for caregiver services or rent.
- Forging signatures on checks, withdrawals slips or other financial documents.
- Tricking someone with a memory impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, into giving away money.
- The addition of a new joint owner to a well established account, followed by frequent cash withdrawals.
- Credit Card and/or bank statements being sent to someone other the older adult who is the actual account holder.
- The committing of person to person, mail, or telephone fraud scams.
- An older adult fails to understand, or reasonable explain, recently completed financial transactions
Ways you can avoid problems:
- Utilize direct deposit for your checks.
- Review your financial statements carefully and promptly. Look for unauthorized withdrawals.
- Document financial arrangements – put all financial matters in writing and be specific. This protects you and reduces the chances of future misunderstandings. Keep complete records of your financial transactions.
- Don’t leave money, valuables, checkbooks or Debit/Credit Cards in plain view of others.
- Have an attorney, financial consultant or employee of a Financial Institution review account activity to detect changes in financial activity that may signal a problem.
- Don’t sign anything that you do not understand.
- Be cautious of opening joint accounts – understand that both parties are equal owners of the account and both will have equal access to the money on deposit.
- Don’t provide account information to strangers.
- Understand any Power of Attorney agreement before signing. Make sure that you know the person to whom you are giving this authority.
- Don’t allow others to use your ATM Card, Debit/ Credit Card. If you don’t use it, have the card canceled.
- Ask for help when you are unsure. Some financial matters can be confusing to you. Ask for help from a Financial Institution representative, a trusted family member, social worker or other professional.
What to do if you think someone is being financially exploited:
- Notify your Financial Institution. Speak to a representative privately (i.e. not in the presence of the person that you suspect is exploiting someone) about the problem.
- Contact Your State’s Adult Protective Services or Department of Human Resources and file a complaint about the suspected activity.