Financial abuse of seniors is on the rise.
According to the California Attorney General’s Office, the financial abuse of seniors is a rapidly growing problem. Seniors are often targets for corrupt telemarketers, lottery scammers, con artists and, worse yet, unscrupulous friends, family or caregivers.
Several common forms of abuse are listed below, along with ways to help protect yourself (or your loved one). Please take a moment to review the list and consider it carefully.
Prizes, Lotteries, & Sweepstakes Scams:
These scams generally involve informing the victim that he or she could win, or already has won, a large sum or money or some other valuable prize. Careful though, there’s a catch – you have to pay a small fee or make a small purchase in order to claim your prize.
Home Improvement Scams:
These scams typically convince seniors to agree to home improvements or repairs (regardless of need) and either fail to complete the project, radically over-charge, or complete the project using inferior products.
Family, Friends, & Caregivers:
Financial abuse by these people can be either slow and systematic or instantaneous. According to the Attorney General’s Office this is the most common type of financial abuse of seniors and “many may be unaware of, or deny the abuse for fear of being left alone or being placed into a nursing facility.” This type of abuse can cover the gamete, from misuse of an ATM card, to the taking of cash, property, or valuables without permission, to signing or cashing social security checks, or even coercing a senior into signing over property.
Here are some ways to protect yourself from abuse like those listed above:
- Remember: A prize is free! – If you have to pay to receive your “prize” then it is not a prize.
- Don’t be afraid to say no.
- Don’t be afraid to hang up the telephone on someone.
- Be cautious of strangers approaching you in public. If you are uncomfortable walk away, if you feel threatened call the police or other law enforcement.
- It is against federal law to play a foreign lottery by mail or telephone.
- Never give your credit card and bank account numbers to people who call you.
- Have your name registered on the national “Do Not Call” List (www.donotcall.gov or 888-382-1222).
- Don’t open the door for a stranger.
- Remember, you should make the decisions regarding what, if any, repairs your home needs, not a stranger.
- Identify what work you want done and know how much you can afford to pay, don’t let the payments get ahead of work completed.
- Who do you want to do the work? You can get a list or reputable, licensed contractors from the Contractors State License Board and check with local Better Business Bureau.
- Don’t pay the full cost of the job up-front. Contractors cannot ask for a deposit of more than 10% or $1000, whichever is less.
- Get estimates in writing and compare; (the lowest price may may not be the best choice, keep in mind quality and keeping with building code).
- Require a written contract and don’t sign until you understand everything in it.
- Don’t be rushed and feel free to talk it over with someone you trust.
- If you need help with your finances or making financial decisions, decide who is the most responsible, trustworthy person in your life to help you. Be picky!
- Tell everyone what your future plans are. This will make it harder for one person to manipulate you or your assets.
- Be careful of giving someone power of attorney. Make sure it contains clear instructions that reflect your wishes about your care and well-being.
- Get impartial, professional legal advice on all legal transactions.
- Watch access to your credit cards, ATM cards, and Social Security Card.
- Check your credit rating and bank accounts regularly.
- Screen caregivers and check references!Don’t hesitate to request that a caregiver have proof of a criminal background check.
For more information about preventing all forms of elder abuse visit www.safestate.org. To order copies of the booklet or video “The Financial Abuse of Seniors: Face It. It’s a Crime” please fax a request to 916-327-2384.