Protecting Seniors from Financial Scams

Senior couple on a laptopI have been in the financial industry most of my life, and I have seen a trend in recent years. A major focus of the financial and securities industry regulators at all levels of government is to protect senior investors and others who may have a diminished capacity from financial fraud and scams.  Who is most at risk?  An elder adult defined as any individual age 60 or older, or a vulnerable adult defined as a person over 18 with a physical or mental limitation that restricts their ability to take care of themselves.

These at-risk groups are vulnerable to different types of exploitation, or physical or mental abuse or neglect.
Our focus today is exploitation, which is the illegal or unfair taking of any at-risk person’s funds or property for another person’s benefit and to the disadvantage of the at-risk person.  They may be tricked, influenced, or forced into handing over their income or assets to a seemingly well-intended person who in fact has a deceitful ulterior motive.

Be aware of red flags. Is your loved one becoming more confused? Do they fail to understand recently completed transactions? Are you suspicious that they may be making a transaction against their will? Are there indications of a forced signature? Do they show reluctance to discuss accounts or financial matters? These are some of the warning signs that they may be victims of financial exploitation. Other things to look for are:

  • Unusual or unexplained large sums of money being withdrawn from accounts by either the at-risk person or someone with their power of attorney
  • New signers on existing accounts or new joint accounts
  • A sudden lottery win, the appearance of, a long-lost relative, or a new intimate acquaintance
  • Bill paying becomes delinquent although they should have the funds to pay them

There are many different types of scams. These are just a few examples:

  • New Account Fraud
  • Requests for “good faith” money, perhaps to help out a “needy” individual – included in this category are inheritance scams, international lottery fraud, fake prizes and so forth
  • Payment for Services which include itinerant fraud or payment for unsolicited work.
  • Fraudulent Purchases, most likely to occur over the internet.
  • Identify theft, power of attorney fraud, investment property fraud

The list goes on and scammers are creating new scams every day.

If you are having suspicions, there are various state laws which provide legal protections to encourage the reporting of suspected abuse. If you suspect someone you care about may be financially exploited contact Adult Protective Services. In New York call 1-800-342-3009, option 6, or 1-844-697-3505 or visit onlinehttp://ocfs.ny.gov/main/psa/.  You can also call your local law enforcement agency.

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