Elder financial abuse has been called the fastest growing crime of the 21st century, according to the Credit Union National Association.
“Our older generation is often more trusting of others and are easier for fraudsters to convince of their scams,” says Kelly Liddle, fraud specialist at Dupaco Community Credit Union.
Victims of these scams have not only lost their money but also have experienced damage to their credit.
There are steps adult children can take, however, to help their aging parents avoid falling victim to financial exploitation.
How you can help
Plan ahead. To ensure your parents’ wishes continue to be followed, it’s important to encourage financial decisions to be made early on, Liddle says. Consult a financial planner, such as Dupaco Financial Services or First Community Trust, for financial and estate-planning services. “Consider the need for power of attorney on accounts, or have select family members added to accounts so family members can monitor for suspicious activity,” Liddle says.
Monitor credit. Dupaco’s free Bright Track credit monitoring service can help watch for errors on your parents’ credit report. Dupaco also offers Family ID Restoration coverage for additional resources to help prevent and respond to fraud.
Review accounts. Help your parents monitor their accounts through Shine Online and Mobile Banking. Dupaco’s eNotifier Alerts can help alert you to suspicious activity and out-of-character transactions.
Protect private information. Warn family members against sharing personal information, such account, PIN and social security numbers. And secure items such as checkbooks, account statements and social security information, Liddle says.
Question the suspicious. “Encourage family members to question anything regarding their finances,” Liddle says. “They should feel free to consult a trusted family member or contact their financial if they have concerns.”
Watch for red flags
Many times, there are signs of elder financial abuse. Know the red flags:
- They’re confused about their accounts.
- They are missing blank checks or credit cards.
- They start using their debit or credit cards when they never did in the past.
- They have unpaid bills or start receiving statements from new credit cards or utilities.
- They have large unexplained withdrawals from accounts or need money for out-of-character purchases.
- Their statements or regular mail are no longer being delivered, or they have unexplained address changes.
- Unknown or unexpected names have been added to their accounts.
- New “friends” accompany them to conduct transactions.
- You suspect forgery on their documents.
“Time is of the essence,” Liddle says. “The sooner exploitation is detected, the sooner it can be stopped. If action on the specific accounts is needed, contact Dupaco, and we will determine how we can assist you.”