Financial elder abuse is the third most common type of elder abuse, and according to reports, it's the fastest growing problem for elderly people. Simple steps of caution can prevent you or your loved one from falling prey to such events.
Paul Greenwood, an attorney and international speaker on the prevention of elder abuse, gives ten ways to avoid financial elder abuse.
1. Choose a caregiver with caution and make your own checks even if the caregiver comes from an agency. Just because someone works for a respectable agency, doesn't mean they are trustworthy enough for you to give sensitive information to them. Have a family member or lawyer help you check the person's background for any inconsistencies.
2. Keep an inventory of all jewelry. Some of the most valuable items are the simplest to heist. Jewelry that's not worn in years is not easily missed and can be resold before it's even discovered missing. Keep a written record of your jewelry and periodically check to make sure they're accounted for, especially after someone's visited your home.
3. Use a shredder for everything with your name, address or any other identifying information on it. Bills, bank statements, law documents, and any sensitive documents should be shredded rather than simply thrown away. Too often private information is gained from trash-diggers or those purposefully looking to steal information.
4. Protect your incoming and outgoing mail. If a caretaker or personal friend wishes to retrieve or send mail for you, make sure you can trust them. You need to be sure checks and private information isn't stolen through your mail.
5. Do a credit search on yourself at least two or three times a year. Identity theft and stolen credit cards are becoming a large problem for many people, including elderly people. Every few months, take time to check your credit. Look for an unusually low score, and report any curious findings. Also, have a trusted loved one keep track of your score if you can.
6. Install caller I.D. to determine if a call is private or unknown and don't be afraid to hang up. Not everyone who calls asking for your bank account number is actually a representative from your bank or credit card company. If you're suspicious about a caller, ask for their phone number and tell them you'll call back. Scammers rarely will give out a phone number that can be traced. Also, call your bank or credit card company and ask if someone from their company is trying to contact you. Take extra steps to be sure you know who you're talking to before giving vital information over the phone.
7. Remember: You will never, ever win a foreign lottery. The popular internet and phone scam of today is the foreign lottery winner. If you didn't enter the contest, you will not win it. Always be wary of people wanting you to wire them money. When in doubt, get advice from a family member.
8. Consider letting your bank send a duplicate of your monthly statement to a trusted family member or an accountant or attorney. Someone you trust can review monthly expenditures and be on the lookout for any unknown charges.
9. Don't assume that people doing work on your home are licensed. Check the background of those you hire, and remember: cheaper isn't always better if it's someone you don't trust. Also, get three estimates in writing and a written contract. Make sure you have written record of the arrangement in case any questions come up later.
10. Have a second line of defense, such as a locked screen door or a security chain guard, at your front door. As sad as it is, our society is changing. Long gone are the days of trust in strangers and open home doors. Too often, elderly people are overpowered by those wishing to enter their homes. Take extra steps to secure your front door.
You can never take too many precautionary measures when protecting yourself from financial elder abuse. If you or a loved one haven't yet, take time to go through the preceding list and make sure you're safe from fraud or scam. With even the smallest changes, you can make sure you, your finances, and your estate are safe from those wishing you harm.
For more information on elder law, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com.