The issues related to the senior or vulnerable investor may lead to financial exploitation as well as elder financial abuse.
Older adulthood is a time of critical and complex decision-making, including important decisions regarding medical care, finances, estate planning and living conditions, among others. However, at a time of such critical thinking, normal healthy aging includes disproportionate changes that may affect one’s mental flexibility, planning, judgment, problem-solving and decision-making.
Tradition Wealth Management is dedicated and committed to educating our clients about ways to protect your identity and personal information. Our team is available to be a resource to you in any time of uncertainty or confusion. The information provided in this resource can help you better understand financial exploitation, identify scams, and make safer and smarter decisions online.
Financial exploitation is a fast-growing form of abuse of seniors and adults with disabilities. It occurs when somebody exploits a position of influence or trust over an elderly person to gain access to that person’s assets, funds, or property. These situations of financial exploitation commonly involve trusted persons in the life of the elderly person or vulnerable adult. Examples include:
- Family members
- Friends and acquaintances
- New “Sweetheart”
Common Examples of Financial Exploitation
- Cashing an elderly person’s checks without authorization or permission
- Forging an older person’s signature
- Misusing or stealing an older person’s money or possessions
- Coercing or deceiving an older person into signing a document (e.g. contract or will)
- Improper use of conservatorship, guardianship, or power of attorney
Financial exploitation takes many forms. While the vast majority of reports involve perpetrators who are related to, or in a trusting relationship with, the victim, scams and fraud by strangers and industry professionals are also very common.
Types of Financial Abuse
When businesses, individuals, or charities use pressure tactics or mislead language to lead seniors into financial mistakes.
When criminals commit identity theft or con seniors into sending money or sharing personal information.
When family, friends, or paid caretakers take advantage of a trusting relationship to get money from the senior.
Common Scams from Fraudsters
Lottery and Sweeptakes
“You’ve already won! Just send $2,500 to cover your taxes.”
You’re called and told your grandson is in jail and needs you to send money immediately.
Scammers read obituaries and call or attend the funeral service to take advantage of the grieving widow or widower by extorting money from relatives to settle fake debts.
Falsely soliciting funds for good causes, which is very common after natural disasters.
I’m from the utility company, I need you to come outside with me for a minute (while accomplice steals valuables).
Home Repair Scam
Roof repair, yard work, home repair scams
Telemarketing scams and accompanying threats
Money sent via telegraphs to people claiming lottery winnings
Common Scams from Industry Professionals
Seniors pressured into taking out inappropriate reverse mortgages or other loans.
The senior may be pressured to buy an expensive annuity which may not mature until the person is well into their 90s or over 100 years old.
High Pressure Sales Seminars
Typically offered with a “free dinner” to sell annuities
Pyramic schemes, unrealistic returns promised, dealer is not licensed
False emails about bank accounts
Credit Cards opened fraudulently, etc.
Medicare/Health Insurance Scams
These are costliest in terms of the dollar amounts.
If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including Tradition Wealth Management, the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services. To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government-sponsored national resource line, at: 1-800-677-1116, or visit https://eldercare.acl.gov.
8 Tips to Protect Yourself
1. Be aware that you are at risk from strangers, and from those closest to you
More than 90 percent of all reported elder abuse is committed by the older person’s own family members, most often their adult children, followed by grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and others. Common tactics include depleting a joint checking account, promising but not delivering care in exchange for money or property, outright theft, and other forms of abuse, including physical abuse, threats, intimidation, and neglect of basic care needs.
Everyone is at risk of financial abuse, even people without high incomes or assets. Understand the most common scams targeting seniors, so you can spot one before it’s too late.
2. Don’t isolate yourself, stay involved!
Isolation is a huge risk factor for elder abuse. Most family violence only occurs behind closed doors, and elder abuse is no exception. Some older people self-isolate by withdrawing from the larger community. Others are isolated because they lose the ability to drive, see, or walk about on their own. Some seniors fear being victimized by purse snatchings and muggings if they venture out. Visit the Eldercare Locator to find services nearby that can help you stay active. Or contact your local senior center to get involved.
3. Always tell solicitors: “I never by from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits me unannounced, send me something in writing.”
Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company and always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. Neighborhood children you know who are selling Girl Scout cookies or school fundraising items may be an exception, but a good rule of thumb is to never donate if it requires you to write your credit card information on any forms.
It’s also good practice to obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. And always take your time in making a decision.
4. Shred all receipts with your credit card number
Identity theft is a huge business. To protect yourself, invest in—and use—a paper shredder. Monitor your bank and credit card statements and never give out personal information over the phone to someone who initiates the contact with you.
5. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry and take yourself off multiple mailing lists
Be careful with your mail. Do not let incoming mail sit in your mailbox for a long time. When sending out sensitive mail, consider dropping it off at a secure collection box or directly at the post office. You also can regularly monitor your credit ratings and check on any unusual or incorrect information at: www.AnnualCreditReport.com.
To get more tips on protecting yourself from fraud, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) OnGuard Online, which has interactive games to help you be a smarter consumer on issues related to spyware, lottery scams, and other swindles.
The FTC National Do Not Call Registry gives you a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls.
6. Use direct deposit for benefit checks to prevent checks from being stolen from the mailbox
Using direct deposit ensures that checks go right into your accounts and are protected. Clever scammers or even scrupulous loved ones have been known to steal benefits checks right out of mailboxes or from seniors’ homes if they are laying around.
7. Never give your credit card, banking, social security, Medicare, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call
Misuse of Medicare dollars is one of the largest scams involving seniors. Common schemes include billing for services never delivered and selling unneeded devices or services to beneficiaries. Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card, banking, and Social Security numbers and do not allow anyone else to use it. Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare.
Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have in fact received the services billed and report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE.
8. Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers and thoroughly do your research
Be an informed consumer. Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions.
Additional Resources: Schwab Protecting Senior and Vulnerable Investors
Advisory Services offered through Tradition Wealth Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through Concourse Financial Group Securities, a Registered Broker/Dealer and Member of FINRA/SIPC. Tradition Wealth Management, LLC, is independent of Concourse Financial Group Securities, Inc. TWM and its representatives are in compliance with the current registration requirements imposed upon registered investment advisers by the SEC and those states in which TWM maintains clients. TWM may only transact business in those states in which it is notice filed, or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from notice filing requirements. TWM is neither an attorney nor an accountant, and no portion of the web site content should be interpreted as legal, accounting or tax advice.