According to the National Council on Aging, almost 90 percent of the financial abuse committed against older Americans is done by someone they know. More than ever, it is imperative for seniors to select a trustworthy person to properly manage their finances and personal affairs.
Fraudsters often prey on seniors experiencing cognitive decline, limited mobility and other disabilities that require them to rely more heavily on others for help. Appointing someone you trust to handle your financial matters aids tremendously in the fight against these crimes.
In recognition of May as Older Americans Month, here are seven tips to help choose the right financial caregiver and prevent financial abuse:
- When delegating financial decisions, make sure it’s someone you trust. If you are unable to facilitate financial transactions, carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all financial matters.
- Know who is in your home. Conduct a thorough background check on all individuals you hire for personal care or home care services. Check references and credentials before you let them into your personal space.
- Never sign something you don’t understand. Consult with a financial adviser or attorney before signing any document that appears suspicious or unclear.
- Understand the terms of assigning a Power of Attorney. Granting someone POA gives them the authority to act and make decisions on your behalf, including managing and having access to your bank and other financial accounts. Make sure you fully understand the terms and conditions of consenting a legal agent before you do so.
- Always trust your instincts. Exploiters and abusers are very skilled. They can be very charming and forceful in their efforts to exploit you. Don’t be fooled – if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be.
- Safeguard your personal information. Shred old bills, junk mail, bank statements and other personal documents you no longer need. Leaving unwanted personal documents around the house could lead to the misuse of your information. If you come across keepsake documents opt to store them in a locked cabinet or safe deposit box at your nearest bank.
- Keep personal items out of plain sight. Lock up checkbooks, credit cards and other monetary instruments to prevent unauthorized use.
For more information on elder financial abuse, visit aba.com/Consumers/Pages/ProtectingTheElderly.aspx