Each year millions of people fall prey to financial scams. It can happen to any of us, at any time. But sadly, those most often affected (and at risk) are our elderly. Good people who have worked hard their entire lives to save for their retirement years are having their nest eggs stolen right out from underneath them. If you are an older adult, or the caregiver for an older adult, it’s important to remember these few tips for protecting financial assets:
Don’t kid yourself by thinking “That could never happen to me.” It can, and does, happen at an alarming rate. Be aware that you may be at risk from both strangers, and those closest to you. Always protect your personal information. Your Social Security number, bank account number(s), credit card information, and insurance policies are private information and should never be shared with strangers. If you have relatives assisting with your care, be extra cautious. While we all want to believe our relatives are looking out for our best interest, statistics show that approximately 90% of financial abuse towards the elderly happens at the hands of family members. Be sure to monitor all bank accounts, joint accounts, and assets regularly.
Don’t buy from unfamiliar companies. Neighborhood children selling Girl Scout cookies is one thing, unwanted solicitors asking for your personal information is another. Always tell solicitors “I never buy from (or give to) anyone who calls or visits unannounced. Please send me something in writing.” It’s also a good practice to obtain as much information from the solicitor as they’re trying to obtain from you. Ask for the sales person’s name, title, company name, phone number, address, and even business license number whenever possible. Do some comparative shopping when you’re in the market to purchase, and always take your time when making a final decision.
Shred personal documents. It’s important to properly destroy all documents that contain personal information once they are no longer needed—this includes things like bank statements, credit card statements, credit card receipts, health care documents, insurance statements, and more. You can purchase a small in-home office shredder for under $20 at any office supply store or chain department store. It’s a small expenditure that can save you big money.
Use direct deposit. This will ensure your benefit checks go directly into your bank account. Clever scammers or even unscrupulous loves ones have been known to steal paper checks out of mailboxes from seniors’ homes. There is no additional charge for signing up for direct deposit, and you never have to worry if your check is there when it’s supposed to be.
Protect your John Hancock. Your signature is priceless and should be protected at all cost. Always review service contracts and purchase agreements carefully before signing on the dotted line, and make sure all of your requirements have been put in writing. It’s also important to clearly understand all contract cancellation and refund terms. If you’re unsure about what you’re signing, don’t sign it. Hold off until a trusted friend or family member can review the document with you.
By regularly following these practices you can help keep your finances secure. However, if you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam don’t be embarrassed to talk about it or ask for help. If you’re unsure who to call, you can reach out to the Elder Care Locator Legal Team for assistance. They can be reached at:1220 W. Vliet St., Ste 300 Milwaukee, WI 53205 414-289-5950 (local) 800-677-1116 (for the office near you)
Remember, the quicker you act, the better your chances of recouping some or all of your loss.