What is Elder Financial Abuse? The Older Americans Act defines Elder Financial Exploitation as fraudulent or otherwise illegal, unauthorized, or improper actions by a caregiver, fiduciary, or other individual in which the resources of an older person are used by another for personal profit or gain; or actions that result in depriving an older person of the benefits, resources, belongings, or assets to which they are entitled.
A 2015 True Link Report, showed that each year seniors lose $36.48 billion to elder financial abuse¹. This is a widespread and rapidly growing problem so it’s important to protect yourself and know how to spot the scams and outsmart the scammers.
Tips to Help You Protect Yourself or Your Loved Ones Against Elder Financial Abuse
- Do not share your Social Security number, account numbers, credit card numbers, or any passwords.
- Use strong passwords with eight or more characters that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols.
- Create different passwords for different accounts. Do not use the same password for all of your accounts and do not allow your device (phone, computer, table, etc.) to remember or store your password.
- Limit the account of personal information you share on social media sites and don’t “friend” or accept requests from people you don’t know. Be sure to review all of the privacy settings available to you.
- Do not respond to email messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information and do not open email attachments or click on links within the email.
- Do not access your bank accounts from a public computer or while connected to a public Wi-Fi Network.
- Be sure you’re on a legitimate site. Type URL’s in your web browser when paying bills or making donations online. Do not click links or cut and paste from an email.
- When shopping online be sure the website is secure. Secure sites will start with “https”. Sites that use encryption will display a padlock icon at the top or bottom of your browser.
- Use credit cards for online purchases when possible. They usually limit the amount you’ll be responsible for in cases of identity theft. Debit card charges are immediately deducted from your bank account leaving little to no chance at recovering your money.
- Never sign documents you don’t completely understand. Legitimate and reputable companies will give you time to review documents or contracts with your attorney or a family member you trust.
- Do not provide personal information (social security numbers, accounts numbers, date of birth, credit card numbers, passwords, PIM numbers, etc.) over the phone unless you placed the call and you know who you’re speaking with.
- Tear up or shred credit card receipts, bank statement, and financial records before throwing them away.
If you suspect you are a victim of fraud, notify the financial institution involved, you can also contact the Federal Trade Commission at: http://www.ftc.gov/complaint.
Visit our Consumer Security Tips page to learn more about scams and ways you can be proactive in protecting yourself.
¹True Link ( 2015) The True Link report on Elder Financial Abuse 2015 (PDF FILE) can be retrieved at: http://documents.truelinkfinancial.com/True-Link-Report-On-Elder-Financial-Abuse-012815.pdf