Every year, countless numbers of seniors and other vulnerable adults are subjected to financial exploitation, sadly, in many cases, by people they know and trust. And with approximately 10,000 people every day turning 65 years old, older citizens are one of the fastest growing segments of our population. Whether you are a senior yourself or have senior loved ones in your life, please keep the following tips in mind to help recognize the signs of financial exploitation, and, if necessary, take action to protect yourself and the ones you love.
There are certain ‘red flags’ or changes in behavior that could be indicative of senior abuse or financial exploitation.
New Friends or Connections
One of the biggest red flags are new people involved in a senior’s life. Is someone new injecting themselves into the senior’s life or taking over certain aspects of their life, such as their bill paying or helping them with their mail? While this could be an innocent desire to help, it could also be a sign of potential exploitation. New friends or social connections should be encouraged (social isolation is a major concern for the elderly and a cause of depression and a host of other health issues), but caution should be taken with new associates in a senior’s life. Should this new person act as a ‘gatekeeper’ by restricting access to the senior or not letting them out of their presence when among others, this should definitely be viewed as suspicious behavior.
Change to Legal or Financial Documents
Another red flag is a new desire to change financial or legal documents. Sudden or unexplained changes to trustees, beneficiaries, insurance policies, powers of attorney, and wills or other estate documents, especially when not recommended by a financial or legal professional, should be cause for concern.
Other behavior that should raise red flags are unusual or large charges or cash withdrawals, missing property or other items from the home, unexplained bills or checks, or the inability to respond reasonably to questions about their finances, expenses or bills.
Steps to Take To Protect Loved Ones
What can you do if you suspect that you, or a loved one, friend, or acquaintance, is being exploited? You should report the matter to the state department of Adult Protective Services. While each state has different laws and rules, most states have a system for reporting and handling suspicious behavior.
Indiana is a ‘Mandatory Reporting’ state, which means that if you believe or have reason to believe that a senior or endangered adult located in Indiana “is the victim of battery, neglect, or exploitation,” you are required to report the matter to Indiana Adult Protective Services. Reports can be made by phone or online at www.in.gov/fssa/da/adult-protective-services/. If you believe that the exploitation is happening at the time, or that the senior or endangered adult is in immediate danger, you should call 911 right away to report the matter.
FINRA also runs a Securities Helpline for Seniors, where senior investors can receive assistance and support from FINRA staff related to various securities topics. The Helpline operates 9 am to 5 pm eastern time Monday through Friday, and can be reached at the following toll free number: 844-57HELPS, or (844) 574-3577. Additional information about the Helpline can be found at https://www.finra.org/investors/need-help/helpline-seniors.