Financial scams and the elderly: Red flags to watch for

Financial fraud continues to rise in the U.S., and many of its victims are the elderly. Look for these red flags that could signal a potential financial scam:

If you are asked for any personal information by unsolicited emails, letters or phone calls.

If you receive an email, phone call or letter with a limited-time offer that pressures you to act immediately.

If you receive an offer that comes with a required upfront fee.

If you receive an offer for free merchandise or travel that requires the purchase of something else.

Debt settlement offers promising to clear all your debts.

Solicitors who tell you not to discuss the offer with friends or family.

Product offers that are overly complicated.

Solicitation from someone claiming to be a financial planner specializing in senior or retirement planning who is NOT a certified financial planner, attorney or chartered financial analyst.

Family members – especially those who live a long distance from an elderly loved one – need to be aware of both the symptoms of financial abuse and the remedies available.

Here are some signs to watch for:

Large withdrawals from bank accounts

Cash or other valuables missing from the home

Changes made to property titles or wills

Forging of an elderly person’s signature

Purchasing unnecessary goods or services

Suspicious financial activity – i.e., sudden ATM withdrawals from a senior’s account when you know they have never used an ATM card

Recommendations to help avoid elder financial abuse include:

Get oversight of financial accounts via a power of attorney co-agent designation 

If necessary, have a guardian or conservator appointed

Avoid having a child or other relative as a joint owner of financial accounts

Establish a trust to hold assets with a trustee who has fiduciary responsibility to the elderly relative

Financial abuse of the elderly is an epidemic, but it is something that can be prevented if family members know the necessary steps to provide effective protection. If you have an elderly loved one without an estate plan, consider helping them to get one in place before it’s too late.

The Estate, Trust & Elder Law Firm, P.L., provides attorney services to a range of clients from young families to advanced and crisis long-term care for seniors. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.