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Financial Education

Elder Abuse Awareness

July 23, 2014 | Return to Financial Education

Across the United States, hundreds of thousands of older adults become victims of abuse, neglect, or exploitation. The issues are not just physical or verbal abuse or neglect. In the U.S., older adults lose an estimated $2.6 million each year through financial exploitation and abuse. Those funds could have been used to pay for housing, prescription drugs, food, or other necessities.

These issues are not related to demographics either – it can happen to any one of us. Elder abuse can come from a trusted neighbor, a family member, or organized scams that prey on trusting older adults to sell them worthless merchandise or try to gain access to credit card numbers.

The elderly are increasingly becoming targets for financial abuse, and at least 20% of Americans over the age of 65 have been victimized – many seniors may not even realize it. Bank employees are frequently trained to notice when a customer is vulnerable or is currently a victim of financial abuse, by simply paying attention to some red flags. The red flags can be valuable when determining abuse, whether it is a bank employee noticing unusual recent withdrawals or a new person simply accompanying the older customer to the bank.

Customers can participate in protecting themselves from financial abuse by following these tips:

Keep personal information private. Never share your social security number, account information, or personal details over the phone or internet, unless you initiated contact with a trusted source.

Shred! Shred! Shred! Shred receipts, bank statements, and unused credit card offers before throwing them away, so fraudsters can’t piece together your personal information. If you can, consider signing up for bank e-statements and those paper statements won’t be vulnerable in the mail.

Don’t let a so-called “advisor” pressure you. Never let a new or untrusted “advisor” pressure you into sharing personal or financial details. They could be a fraudster.

Check your credit report. Customers should check their credit report at least once a year to ensure that now new credit cards or accounts have been opened by criminals in your name.

Being aware of warning signs and taking simple steps to safeguard personal information can mean the difference between being a victim and a fighter. Consider staying in contact with older and/or disabled relatives, friends, neighbors, and acquaintances so that you can watch or listen for warning signs that something is wrong. And if you believe, or even suspect, that there is potential abuse, neglect, or exploitation going on, be sure to report it to human services programs or law enforcement.