Elder Financial Exploitation
To con artists, down-on-their-luck relatives, or opportunistic acquaintances, are gold mines. Individuals over the age of 50 control 70% of the country’s wealth, and seniors between the ages of 65 and 74, with an average net worth of $1.06 million, have more assets than any other age group. “That’s where the money is,” says Jay Haapala, AARP associate state director of community outreach in Minnesota. “If college kids had a bunch of disposable income lying around, criminals would be trying to figure out how to scam college kids.” Dementia, disability, and decline can make it even easier for criminals to take advantage of the elderly. All told, it is a problem that costs American seniors billions of dollars every year.
Common forms of exploitation
There are myriad scams, unethical businesses, and unscrupulous individuals preying on seniors all the time. While the details vary, there are a few familiar scenarios.
Breach of trust
The vast majority of elder financial abuse—as much as 90%, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association—is committed by caregivers or close family members. A son is added to a checking account to help manage Mom’s bills and then starts using the account to pay off gambling debts. Or Grandpa gives valuables to the housekeeper and eventually—at her suggestion—names her in the will.
Someone calls, supposedly from the IRS, saying that an individual has a tax bill that is going to be charged with interest and fees unless paid immediately. Or someone calls with news that there is a problem with a credit card and they need a Social Security number and birth date to access account information to clear things up.
How to stay safe
So, how do you protect yourself and your loved ones from elder financial abuse? Sign up on the Do Not Call Registry, this prevents businesses from contacting you. When online don’t click on links in your email if you don’t know the person or if you are not expecting the information.
Haapala also reminds seniors to conduct their personal business within the financial services system. If you receive a call or email from someone saying there is a problem with your debit or credit card, or your account, you should hang up and call the credit union back directly on their main phone number so you can verify that you are speaking to a credit union representative and not a criminal. Also, it is important to monitor your accounts closely so you can watch for any unwanted activity.
If you ever have any questions or suspect potential fraud contact Kellogg Community Credit Union immediately so we can help.
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