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Using the Holidays to Check for Elder Financial Exploitation

Any time is a good time to talk with the senior loved ones in your life about the possibility of senior fraud. As we have frequently discussed here, the theft of money and property from senior citizens remains an incredibly robust problem, affecting far more people than most suspect. The swindling takes many froms, from unfairly convincing seniors to give away money unnecessarily to outright theft. In virtually all cases it is criminal, but it is very difficult to identify every time that it occurs. That is why most observers continue to suggest that proactive steps need to be taken by family and friends to both guard against the financial mistreatment and identify when it has occurred.

A new story from Forbes suggests that holiday gatherings might prove a good time to address these issues. Over the next few weeks, many families will get together in various ways to commemorate the season. For that reason, it is an ideal time to careully broach the topic. Of course, bringing up questions related to senior finances and possible abuse is more of an art than a science. Asking “Have you had money taken from you unfairly in recent months?” is not likely to go over well. Instead, it is best to simply slowly ask about any recent financial opportunties or similar tangential issue that might hint at possible exploitation.

This same call is being made from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Assistant Secretary for Aging in the department recently issued a similar refrain declaring that, “this holiday season, we encourage families to spend some time asking older family members some basic questions to ensure that their finances are in good hands and that if there are signs of abuse, that the right steps are taken to stop it.”

The article also includes a helpful list of basic talking points that are always good to discuss when having conversations about financial exploitation. Some of those include:

–Never make a large investment or purchase alone. Have a friend or relative review the deal beforehand. This is good advice for everyone, not just seniors.

–Never provide personal information over the phone unless you are very clear about who you are apeaking with and what they are using the information for. This includes things like credit card numbers, birthdays, and social security numbers.

–Never hire someone to help in your home without knowing their background, using a screening company, or otherwise feeling comfortable with their track record. Many seniors have property stolen or are otherwise taken advantage of by those who enter their home to perform various tasks.

–Never ignore your suspicions. Far too often seniors (and their loved ones) have general concerns about a certain relationship or arrangement but fail to do anything about it. In many cases, this simply allows a wrongdoer to get away with the scam. It is important to know that many resources exist to help in these situations. For example, the National Center on Elder Abuse recently published a guide (see it here) that delves into many senior financial abuse issues. It also includes some resources for those wanting to report problems or learn more about how these scams work and the potential ramifications.

At the end of the day, it is up to all of us to work together help prevent senior exploitation in all settings and ensure those who engage in this conduct are held accountable. There is nothing to gain from staying silent. Please take a moment to ensure the senior loved ones in our life are thriving in their golden years and not being abused in any way.

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