According to the Elder Financial Protection Network, roughly $2.6 billion is stolen from seniors every year. Elders often must rely on friends and family to help with financial matters: investments, paying bills, tracking spending, etc. While in most cases this works well, financial abuse of elders is on the rise. Often the perpetrator is someone the senior trusts or is the primary caregiver, so the senior is unwilling or unable to get help. Elder financial abuse is one of the most difficult crimes to detect and prosecute.
Elder abuse can take many forms, from forging a senior’s name on checks or loan or credit card applications to promises of services that are paid for, but never performed. Elders are coerced into giving up power of attorney or bullied into giving expensive gifts or making extravagant “loans” the borrower has no intention of paying back. Seniors should also beware of fake sweepstakes, investment opportunities, charities, repair providers and predatory “lenders.”
A good rule of thumb for avoiding fraud is to be wary of anyone offering a product or service when you didn’t initiate the conversation. Do your research before handing over money or authority over your finances. Washington State’s Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) website has information and resources to help seniors fight financial abuse.
If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of elder financial abuse, contact Eldercare Locator. This service, provided free by the U.S. Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, can connect you to resources in your area: eldercare.gov or 800.677.1116.
For seniors and their caregivers in King County, Senior Services is a non-profit organization that provides a wealth of resources and referrals for seniors who need help. If you’re over 60 and looking for assistance with legal, financial, nutritional or transportation needs, Senior Services is an excellent place to start: call 206.448.5720, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.