Prevent Elder & Dependent Adult Financial Abuse
Keep in mind that financial exploitation is often committed by a trusted person, such as a friend, caregiver or family member. Be aware of warning signs and take simple steps to safeguard personal information to protect yourself or your loved ones from financial abuse.
- Shred receipts, bank statements, and other sensitive documents before throwing them away.
- Never give your Social Security number, account numbers or other personal or financial information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
- Don’t open e-mail from unknown sources, and beware of any call or notice claiming you have won a lottery.
- Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Order copies of your credit report once a year.
- Monitor your account activity regularly, and report lost or stolen cards and checks or suspicious transactions to your bank immediately.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
- If a stranger needs to send you payment for something, insist on a check for the exact amount. Never accept a check for more or agree to wire the difference back.
- Never rush into a financial decision or let someone pressure you into any agreement. Ask for details in writing and consult with a financial advisor or attorney. Feel free to say “no.”
- Get to know your local banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
- Trust your instincts. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Unusual bank account activity, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals or transfers, closure of CDs or accounts without regard to penalties, and uncharacteristic wire transfers.
- Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills.
- Checks written as “loans” or “gifts.”
- Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home.
- ATM withdrawals by a person who has never used an ATM card.
- A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of a senior or dependent adult without proper documentation.
- Suspicious signatures on any checks, financial or legal documents, or outright forgery.
- Sudden unexplained changes to the person’s powers of attorney, wills or trusts.
- Disappearing valuables or assets.
- Suspicious activities or suspicious people at a senior’s or dependent adult’s home.
- Substandard care despite adequate finances, or the person displays confusion, fear or lack of awareness.
What to do if you suspect financial abuse
- Contact the Adult Protective Services in the California county where the senior resides.
- Contact your local police – if fraud is involved, they should investigate.
- Report the suspected abuse to the senior’s or the dependent adult’s financial institution(s).
- If you suspect you are a victim, talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart. Talk to your attorney, your doctor, an officer at your bank, or contact your local Adult Protective Services organization for help.
- Money Smart for Older Adults: A Resource Guide
- Elder Financial Protection Network
- National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (NCPEA)
- American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
- Administration on Aging
- National Council for Aging Care
- Seniors Against Investment Fraud (SAIF)
- Legal Services of Northern CA – Senior Legal Hotline