Combine our aging population, longer life expectancies, and all the new-fangled ways to engage in old-fashioned thievery, and America faces a perfect storm of increased financial elder abuse.
It’s worth emphasizing, even those who are affluent, well-educated and/or generally street-savvy are not immune from the threat. In a 2015 survey, True Link Financial (a firm dedicated to protecting families against financial abuse) found that, “Seniors who are young, urban, and college educated lose more money than those who are not,” and “[f]inancially sophisticated seniors lose more to fraud, likely because they are comfortable moving larger amounts of money around.”
They also found that especially friendly (and/or lonely) seniors were at increased risk. For example, you probably know someone who fits this description: “You tell mom to hang up on telemarketers, but she is just too polite to hang up on anyone.”
First, we fiduciary advisors have an important role to play as our clients’ first lines of defense against financial elder abuse. Once we know you well – and thanks in part to recently enacted legislation – we and our allies at Schwab Institutional are better equipped to detect and follow up when something seems “off.”
Family members can and should help as well (although, tragically, they can also be among the worst perpetrators, given their ready access to the victim’s heartstrings).
Together, we can watch out for telltale signs of financial elder abuse.
Be on the lookout for erratic financial activities that don’t jive with your loved one’s past habits and levels of competency. For example, watch out for missing or inconsistent account statements, unpaid bills, and unexplained deposits or withdrawals.
There are softer signs as well. Be on alert if a loved one is displaying increased levels of anxiety or confusion about their money; or if a family member, “friend” or guardian may be isolating their victim from you or others.
Financial abuse can arrive in the form of an external threat – such as a phone scam, in which the victim is tricked into wiring money overseas to “rescue” a stranded relative, or a phishing email that tempts them into clicking on infected links. As touched on above, the abuse also can come from a trusted friend or family member, and it can continue for years.
If you suspect you or someone you know has become a victim of financial abuse, don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed to report it. It truly can happen to anyone, at any age! Hill Investment Group clients and their family members should feel free to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. You also may wish to be in touch with other financial alliances, such as your bank or insurance provider, and consider submitting a complaint to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Would you like to know more about what we are doing Hill Investment Group to prevent abuse and fraud, and protect client information? We are here as a resource for you. Feel free to be in touch with any questions.