A client’s son called the other day to share his mother’s situation. His sister began noticing some problems with mom’s checking account. My client had recently begun writing quite a few checks to charities and did not remember. In one instance, she said someone came to the door and solicited a donation. The final straw came when my client called her son one day and said “I just won $20,000”. The “nice man” that called to inform her just needed her bank account and social security number to transfer the money to her account. She gave it to him!
If you are age 60 or older—and especially if you are an older woman living alone—you may be a special target of people who sell bogus products and services by telephone.
Telemarketing scams often involve offers of free prizes, low-cost vitamins or health care products, and inexpensive vacations.
Signs of possible-financial abuse:
- The elder or dependent adult has recently become confused or disoriented. Personal belongings, papers, credit cards are missing.
- The elder thinks they have won a large cash prize and need to pay a fee or give out personal information to receive the funds.
- Another person’s name added to the client’s bank account or important documents, or frequent checks made out to CASH.
- Unexplained withdrawals of cash from mom/dad’s checking or savings account via ATM or teller window.
- Hesitation from your parent to talk openly about his/her financial transactions when you find something amiss.
- Anger or defensiveness when asked about the missing funds.
How Can You Prevent Financial Abuse of an Elderly Friend or Family Member?
If you don’t have Power of Attorney for your parent it may be difficult to stop the abuse. To protect vulnerable and dependant adults from fraud the California state legislature passed The Financial Elder Abuse Reporting Act of 2005 (CA WELFARE CODE 15630). It requires employees of banks and credit unions to report suspected financial elder abuse to Adult Protective Services or law enforcement authorities.
If you suspect that an elderly person is giving their money to persons that do not have their best interest in mind, write a letter to the financial institution to make them aware of the problem.
- State your name and your relationship with the elder.
- Give as much identifying information about the elder account holder as possible.
- Let them know the purpose of your letter is to make them aware of suspicious activity on the elder’s account and any other details of the abuse.
Many times, an elderly adult will not cooperate because they do not want to admit that they have been duped. Or worse, they may be under the influence of the abuser. The Financial Abuse Reporting Act will allow you to help an elder even when they do not see that they are being taken advantage of by the abuser.
More information can be found on the County of San Diego Health and Human Services website and on the State Department of Justice Attorney General’s website under Protecting Children & Seniors.