The Invisible Epidemic
I have written often about the Baby Boomer generation and the particular challenges facing not only that generation but also the adult children who are being called upon to assist their aging parents. This help can come in many forms; telephone calls, visits and frequently the offer of assistance with handling financial affairs.
One of the challenges facing the coming Baby Boomer generation is “Fraud against the elderly” It has been named as the “invisible epidemic” (Senate Committee on Aging) (www.aging.senate.gov/press-room/press-releases )
One report is: “Senate Aging Committee to Examine Financial Exploitation of Seniors” (Grandson of the late NY Philanthropist and Socialite, Brooke Astor Scheduled to Testify at Wednesday’s Hearing Tuesday, February 3, 2015) From the Senate website: “WASHINGTON, DC- Financial exploitation of older Americans is a growing epidemic that cost seniors an estimated $2.9 billion in 2010, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In as many of 90 percent of these financial abuse cases, the senior is victimized by someone he or she knows well. Financial exploitation of vulnerable seniors is the topic of an upcoming hearing of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.”
Other reports/topics noted on the government website include a “fraud hotline”, IRS Phone scams, Retirement Savings; “the $7.7 Trillion Retirement Gap; and “Financial Exploitation of Seniors”.
(There is a Fraud Hotline if fraud against an older person is suspected: 1-855-303-9470 is the number currently listed on the government website).
It is critical for adult children to talk with their parents; to seek legal advice and to put mechanisms in place, such as Power Of Attorney (POA), and other legal paperwork so that an adult child can help in times of necessity. One cannot assume that, because you are a son or daughter, you will be able to “take over the reins” in times of crisis, unless the legal mechanisms have been put in place beforehand.
Now let’s talk about PREVENTION! With this in mind, our friends at the Squared Away blog of Boston College have passed on some valuable information about how financial institutions can help make the task of helping with a loved one’s finances a bit easier, while at the same time giving a parent dignity and giving you peace of mind.
One of my previous blogs dealt with the fact that many unsolicited offers come to the elderly via telephone and mail. Fraudsters gain valuable information via unsolicited telephone calls. An adult child can take preventive action to protect bank accounts and savings from fraud.
According to the Squared Away blog, an adult child could open a debit account separate from all other accounts. The account is funded to a certain level, e.g. $500 per month. Thus, the parent has the dignity of having a debit card to use, but their main accounts are protected. Suspicious transactions can more easily be monitored. Squared Away mentions a company called True Link. I wanted to know more, so I went to the True Link’s website and there was a quote by Stinchcombe: “When a bank tells a caretaker to take away a senior’s checkbook, “that’s a horrible answer to the problem since it so severely reduces their independence,” …True Link’s alternative is a card that can be used only in circumstances that the senior’s caretaker approves.” According to the True Link website, “True Link gets real-time transaction information from its processor i2c, allowing it to immediately decline a transaction that’s over the maximum amount or send a text-message alert to prompt the caretaker to intervene.” Each family should do their own research to find out as much information about protection against fraud. The above is only one example.
Every family situation is different and each adult child will seek the appropriate mechanisms to protect loved ones against the harm of fraud. The main goal is to be proactive, rather than waiting for something bad to occur.
Certain states have even moved to enhance protection strategies for vulnerable populations to protect them from fraud. According to Squared Away, “In California bank employees can be liable for failing to report suspicious transactions” and elder financial abuse. “ The state of Utah has had anti-fraud mechanisms in place since 2011.”
Another strategy is to place daily “alerts” on bank accounts which can be monitored. Ask your financial institution about what is available through them to prevent fraud on financial accounts.
Being proactive (to prevent fraud) and vigilant is much better than being reactive to the problem.
With help, the “invisible epidemic” of fraud against our aging population can be stamped out.
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