Recently an article in the Vancouver Sun got my blood boiling.
It was a story about a man in St. Catherines Ontario who lost his home, his car and many of his possessions. A fraudster emptied his bank account, mortgaged his home and in total stole $200,00 leaving the senior with $20 to his name. Although they could not provide any details, the police called it the worst case of elder abuse they had ever seen.
It seems that the fraudster was someone the senior knew and trusted – an employee of the credit union where he banked.
Abuse generally and financial abuse in particular against seniors often go undetected or unreported. A press release posted a few years ago by the BC Association of Community Response Team’s gave an unforgettable example of financial abuse against seniors:
“I’m 91. Once I was an educator, and had a decent life. What I am today? An abused senior. Oh, please don’t tell anyone. If my kids find out I’ve been talking, there’ll be hell to pay. I don’t want them to get into trouble. Everyday it gets worse—last month I had $300,000 in savings. Now there’s only $5000 left. It’s so hard to say NO to them. They yell and use the F word. I don’t know where they learned to talk like that. I’m so ashamed.”
I thought I might share a few tips about how seniors can protect themselves.
1. If you feel pressured or uncomfortable – hang up the phone.
2. 4. Never send money or give your credit card, account number or social security number to an unfamiliar party. Wait till you have received written material about any offer or charity.
5. Lock your Mailbox.
6. Have any contracts reviewed by a trusted professional on your side before signing anything.
7. Take your time making any financial decision.
8. When out, leave your purse, wallet, credit cards, and identification home whenever possible. Carry little cash.
9. Don’t leave your purse in a shopping cart unattended for even a moment – including while you are loading packages
10. Arrange for government and pension checks to be directly deposited to your bank.
11. Examine your credit card bills and account balances to look for unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
12. Use a shredder to dispose of documents containing private information and pre-approved credit card offers.
13. Be stingy with information if someone calls or sends you an unsolicited e-mail.
14. Avoid strange ATM’s.
15. Add password protections to your bank and brokerage accounts.
16. Monitor your credit report.
17. Enroll in an identity theft protection and restoration program
Danger Signals for Financial Abuse
- Sudden removal of large sums of money from a bank account
- Inability to pay bills, buy food or personal care items
- Fear or anxiety when discussing finances
- Visits by a family member only when check arrives
- Inaccurate or lack of knowledge of personal finances
- Unexpected revision of a will, or sudden sale of property
How can I Prevent Becoming a Victim of Financial Abuse?
- Maintain a network of friends and acquaintances
- Learn to recognize the signs of abuse
- Be informed of personal assets, including property, bank accounts and possessions
- Keep money in a bank, not in your home
- Have pension checks deposited directly into bank account
- Have Written repayment agreement before lending
The Better Business Bureau publishes a top ten list of scams to watch out for. Here is their most recent list.
1. Top Auto Scam – Automotive Online Pricing
2. Top Emotional Scam – Disaster Charity Fraud
3. Top Identity Theft – Remote Computer Repair
4. Top Social Media Scam – Fake Facebook Friend Request
5. Top Romance Scam – Catphishing/Online Dating scam
6. Top Utilities Scam – Fake Billing
7. Top Finance Scam – Online Affinity Fraud
8. Top Sales Scam – Redirected Robocalls
9. Top Big Data Scam – Big Box Breach
10. Top Ad Scam – Fake Online Reviews
For further information go to http://www.bbb.org/mbc/bbb-top-10-scams/