Seniors, families told to be proactive against abuse, fraud

elderSeniors and their families are being encouraged  to take proactive steps to safeguard against all forms of elder abuse, including financial exploitation and fraud – as part of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (June  15).

“Seniors face a unique set of risks, especially where financial abuse is concerned,” said  Jo Kerstetter, spokesperson of Money Management International (MMI), America’s largest nonprofit credit counseling and financial education organization. “They may have accumulated wealth, but may lack the experience or knowledge to confidently manage that wealth on their own, leading them to rely on others. This is especially true if they are a widower or widow who didn’t regularly manage the family finances before the loss of a spouse. Seniors are also more likely to have a disability or dependency that makes them more vulnerable to exploitation.”

According to the American National Center on Elder Abuse, over five million older Americans are abused, neglected, or exploited each year, though many experts believe that number may be as much as 20 times higher when accounting for unreported cases. Meanwhile, seniors are defrauded upwards of $3 billion every year, according to the most recent estimate from MetLife.

Sadly, most financial elder abuse is committed by family members, including children and spouses. Signs that financial elder abuse has occurred may include:

  • Bank account withdrawals and charges the victim cannot explain
  • Unpaid/overdue bills, despite the victim seemingly having sufficient funds
  • Ongoing financial arrangements that the victim does not understand or recall agreeing to
  • Missing property
  • Potentially forged signatures on checks and other financial documents

If you suspect that you or someone you know has been the victim of financial elder abuse, don’t hesitate to contact your local police department.

“Ultimately, the first line of defense against financial fraud is education,” said Kerstetter. “The better equipped we are to manage our personal finances, the less reliant we become on advisors and caregivers who may or may not have our best interests at heart. If you are unable to manage your finances on your own, you need to have a team with checks and balances. A solid estate plan is a great place to start.”

MMI offers a variety of programs and services geared towards improving the financial wellness and stability of seniors, and is actively seeking new partnership opportunities in an effort to strengthen and broaden this spectrum of solutions. In addition to financial workshops, webinars, eBooks, and educational articles, MMI also offers debt and budget counseling, credit report reviews, reverse mortgage (or HECM) counseling and representative payee services through CrissCross , a division of MMI. – PRNewswire.

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