It’s almost hard to believe, but the elderly are by far the number one targets and victims in the United States for identity theft and credit card fraud.The elderly are typically selected because of their established credit histories, a lack of education about credit as well as an increased dependence upon family members.Elderly financial abuse is unfortunately on the rise. The 2011 MetLife Study of Elder Financial Abuse reported that victims lose an estimated $2.9 billion dollars annually which is up 12 % from 2008. Strangers are responsible for 51% of the elderly abuse crimes, but unbelievably friends or family members commit 34% of these crimes.
The Most Common Victims
The MetLife Study found that the most common and hardest hit victims are between 80 and 89 years old and are more than 50% women.Of these groups of victims they are typically living alone in poor health, often requiring help from family members or outside medical workers.You would think you’d be able to easily spot one of these monsters willing to rob blind grandmothers and grandfathers but they are often the last to be suspected or never seen coming.
The Most Common Perpetrators
Half of those willing to commit such a vile crime are faceless individuals who gain access to personal information over the phone, through the mail or online.There are educational steps that can be taken to inform the elderly about the dangers of sharing social security, bank account or credit card information with strangers or non-trustworthy sources.
Unfortunately the most preventable group, friends and family members are much harder to prevent.Frequently the elderly depend upon their children, long time friends and neighbors to handle their finances or offer financial advice. As health conditions deteriorate and elderly care becomes more of an imposition upon the lives of these caregivers, frequently there is an increased sense of entitlement among these individuals. Family members typically become more likely to use credit cards and bank accounts as if they were their own because the familial relationship is easy enough to establish.
Warning Signs of Elderly Financial Abuse
It’s hard to imagine a family member being capable of such a disgusting act as stealing from their elderly family members, but there are a few red flags to keep an eye-out for around your elderly members of your family:
·Late payment notices though the responsible party swears they are paid.
·Odd bank transfers or odd cash withdrawals
·Missing bank or credit card statements
·Missing belongings, personal possessions and collectables
·A change in a family members or caregivers financial matters or spending
What can be done?
If you find yourself in the position where you have a family member receiving care or help from others to manage their finances and care, there are simple steps you may take to help protect them without stepping on any toes.
Especially if you have an elderly family member incapacitated at any level be sure to keep a watchful eye over their care as well as their financial situation.
A great mantra to work through the stress of caring for an elderly family member is to always “trust but verify” everything.As they age memory typically deteriorates and with it the ability to remember if bills have been left unpaid or if money has gone missing. Trust, but verify.
If responsibilities are spread amongst a group of individuals, set up monthly meetings to go over all of the paperwork together.Ask to see all statements and invoices.This is also a great way to keep on top of the health and physical care of your loved one by comparing notes on your family members’ well being. Also consider having your family members’ credit report pulled every quarter or so to be sure there is no fraudulent activity elsewhere.
There are also third party companies that manage or simply oversee the finances of the elderly. Without any way to benefit from the misappropriation of funds, these companies are a great way to relieve the stress put upon the family as well as diminish the suspicions of theft.These services of course may be a bit expensive but they are worth consideration.
Don't Miss The Signs...