It cannot be stressed enough the severity of elder financial abuse. Many call it the “silent crime”. It is so important for those who suspect it, report it to the local authorities. Many states now have mandatory elder abuse reporting. Examples of those who are required to report are the following:
- Care Custodians
- Health Practitioners
- County Welfare Departments
- Employees of Law Enforcement Agencies
- Employees of Fire Departments
- Employees of humane societies and animal control agencies
- Employees of environmental health and building code enforcement
- Clergy members
- Any other protective, public, sectarian, mental health, private assistance, or advocacy agency, or person providing health services or social services to elders or dependent adults
- Any person who has assumed full or intermittent responsibility for care or custody of an elder or dependent adult.
Now that we have heard all of the horror stories, let us discuss prevention. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure. Here are some things that are recommended by attorneys and estate planning professionals:
- Start estate planning while are you in full control of the mental capabilities. You will be fully present in the choices and steps you took for your future.
- Choose an agent that is responsible and trustworthy. A good rule of thumb is how he/she manages his/her own affairs.
- Keep excellent records and control your own assets. It is recommended that if you are wary of putting a child’s name on your deeds and/or bank accounts, contact an estate attorney to set up a Revocable Trust.
- Find out your bank’s policies on protecting the elderly. Many banks are educating their tellers and employees to report any signs of possible exploitation. In fact, Wells Fargo’s tellers have been very successful in helping thwart possible abuses to their seniors. One branch in particular is a branch in Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania. This branch has many seniors in the area and are very protective of their senior customers.
- If is also recommended that you build a good relationship with your bank. David Call of the Naples Florida Weekly gives these tips:
- Establish relationship with bank personnel.
- Use direct deposit.
- Do not leave cash or financial records in the open – keep in a secure place.
- If someone is helping you or an aging relative manage finances, have a third party review the information.
- Cancel any ATM, debit and credit cards you don’t use.
- Don’t give out your PIN or write it on the card.
- Do not give out Social Security numbers or account numbers over the phone.
Unfortunately, elder financial abuse is not going to fade away. However, one can take steps to protect one’s self from this growing problem. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them.