We are in the heart of tax season, with less than a month left before the April 15th filing deadline. As you sort through your personal paperwork your head may spin while trying to understand complex rules regarding deductions, tax rates, and more. Financial matters are complex. That is exactly why professionals are involved in many transactions, because it is difficult for regular community members to figure it out on their own.
Unfortunately, it is for the very same reasons that senior financial exploitation is such a common problem. Anyone is at risk of having their money taken in various scheme, but seniors have unique vulnerabilities that make them prime targets for abuse.
Considering finances are on the mind of many Chicagoans this season, it is a perfect time to offer some reminders about the prevalence of elder financial exploitation and the signs that may indicate a senior in your life is affected.
Financial Abuse in Illinois
This sort of mistreatment can be perpetrated by anyone. However, researchers into the subject note that the most common perpetrators are family members, unscrupulous financial professionals, and, in rarer cases, strangers who “befriend’ the senior. Some common general signs of mistreatment include:
—Account figures change suddenly. Retired seniors are usually living off a nest egg, and it should only be depleted on a safe, systematic basis. Any sudden change is a huge red flag that something is amiss.
—The senior has a new, close friend. Of course there is nothing wrong with new relationships blooming in old age. However, it is important to be at least somewhat cautious of individuals who seem to grow particularly close to a senior in a short time. Those willing to cheat vulnerable, often lonely, elderly residents usually first work their way into their lives as a friend.
When the exploitation is occurring by a financial professional, there there may be unique warning signs. For example, as mentioned in a recent Forbes article on the subject:
—The financial professional (often a broker) convinces the senior to drastically alter their investment strategies. Retired individuals almost always need of of safe, secure investments to ensure they have funds to last indefinitely. Unfortunately, some brokers trick seniors into making unwise moves, often buying investments that do not make sense simply to increase the broker’s commission.
—The broker changes companies and convinces the senior to follow along. It is not uncommon for brokers who are willing to bend the rules to lose their position with respected firms. However, when they do, they may take clients with them to a new firm–particular seniors who have a sense of loyalty. The risk of exploitation of senior savings is far more likely at these times.
Don’t Wait, Act
Hundreds of millions of dollars are lost each and every year as a result of senior financial abuse. The problem continues to fly under the radar, because those with some suspicions of mistreatment remain silent. It is important not to wait until it is too late. Usually by the time any problem is uncovered, it is impossible to recover any money lost. There is little risked by at least asking about your suspicions and ensuring that your loved one is not being abused.
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