The U.S. Census Bureau projects that the number of Americans age 65 and older will rise to nearly 21% of the population by 2030, up from 15% in 2015. As the U.S. population continues to age, opportunities for financial abuse of the elderly will likely continue to grow as well.
One of the first steps toward preventing elder financial abuse is to have conversations with the important people in your life, including your financial advisor, about how you can work together to safeguard your money and preserve your financial future.
In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15 and to help protect yourself or your loved ones from financial fraud and exploitation, we suggest the following tips:
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate planning matters. Name a trusted contact to your brokerage account. Be careful in naming a power of attorney. Select those who have your best interest at heart.
- Never give personal information, including your Social Security Number, account number, or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.
- Stay alert to common fraud schemes. Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings”; be wary of common online romance scams.
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers, home health care aides, or others to have access to information about your finances. Make sure to lock up your checkbook, ATM card, account statements, and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Pay with checks and debit/credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail. Review your monthly statements to ensure you recognize all transactions in your account. Alert your financial institution right away if you notice unauthorized activity in your account.
- You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you believe you are a victim of elder financial abuse, tell your financial advisor, contact your local Adult Protective Services, or call your local police for help.