Cases of financial elder abuse are more common than many people realize. Our elderly family members, neighbors, and friends are easy targets of bad people and it is our duty to protect them and ensure those who victimize them are brought to justice. This blog will provide a few pointers on how to protect elderly from financial abuse:
- You can never be too careful! – Regardless of whom the caregiver is in mom or dad’s home, always visit regularly or have a third party in the home on a regular basis. Look at your loved one’s home as if you are a total stranger. You may even want to bring in a trusted but unfamiliar face to the surroundings to truly get an altruistic and unbiased view. Remember, no matter how uncomfortable, “think like a thief!”
- Keep valuable materials in safe storage – The easiest items are jewelry, money, and financial instruments (bank account information, checks, debit/credit cards, etc.). These can easily be placed in a pocket and can be chalked up to being “lost”. Always lock up these items in a safe or a completely secure area behind lock and key.
- Reconcile bank statements – Beware of suspicious or missing checks. Checks out of sequence are a big red flag.
- Hire a professional caregiver – If your loved one is paying someone for a service outside of what you contracted, remove the caregiver immediately! Taking advantage of an elderly person’s naivety, kindness, or diminished capacity is as big a crime as petty theft. It’s best to hire a professional that has been through a background check and provide proper documentation to know your loved one is in good hands.
- If things begin to go missing, do not assume! – This can protect the caregiver and the client. Watch for patterns and immediately investigate everything.
- Build a boundary – Never allow a caregiver to have too much control over your loved one’s affairs. Establishing firewalls, or checks and balance systems, is always a good idea. For example, if your caregiver pays mom’s bills, a separate person should open the mail and reconcile the bank statements. Think of running a household like it’s a business!
- Secure your loved ones by preventing access to scammers – Financial scams can come through calls, text or even an email offering special services that could lead to fraud or identity theft.