In recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, BankWest is urging older customers and their trusted caregivers to safeguard all personal information and stay alert to the common signs of financial abuse. Vulnerable adult abuse is especially tragic because in many of these cases the abuser is in a position of trust; as a caregiver, a guardian, a trustee, or even a family member. By being aware of the signs of possible abuse, neglect and exploitation, you can help protect victims.
Some common signs of financial exploitation include:
- Social Isolation;
- Inability to pay for healthcare;
- New power of attorney by unknown person;
- Lack of funds to pay for common life expenses.
Bank employees are frequently trained to identify red flags commonly associated with financial abuse, from unusual recent withdrawals to a new person accompanying the older customer to the bank. However, elder financial abuse is best combated when bankers and customers work together. To help older Americans protect themselves, BankWest is offering the following tips:
- Plan ahead to protect your assets and to ensure your wishes are followed. Talk to someone at your financial institution, an attorney, or financial advisor about the best options for you.
- Carefully choose a trustworthy person to act as your agent in all estate-planning matters.
- Lock up your checkbook, account statements and other sensitive information when others will be in your home.
- Never give personal information, including your Social Security Number, account numbers or other financial information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call or you are 100 percent confident you are speaking to a trusted party.
- Never pay a fee or taxes to collect sweepstakes or lottery “winnings.”
- Never rush into a financial decision. Ask for details in writing and get a second opinion.
- Consult with a financial advisor or attorney before signing any document you don’t understand.
- Get to know your banker and build a relationship with the people who handle your finances. They can look out for any suspicious activity related to your account.
- Check references and credentials before hiring anyone. Don’t allow workers to have access to information about your finances.
- Pay with checks and credit cards instead of cash to keep a paper trail.
- You have the right not to be threatened or intimidated. If you think someone close to you is trying to take control of your finances, call your local Adult Protective Services or tell someone at your bank.
If you believe you are a victim of financial abuse, be sure to:
- Talk to a trusted family member who has your best interests at heart, or to your clergy.
- Talk to your attorney, doctor or an officer at your bank.
- Contact Adult Protective Services in your state or your local police for help.
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was launched on June 15, 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.