How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse
- Create a Durable Power of Attorney for property.
- Create an estate plan.
- Put all financial instructions in writing.
- Keep records of all financial transactions and legal documents up to date and in a safe place.
Practice Preventive Banking:
- Use direct deposits.
- Keep checks in a safe place and never sign a blank check allowing someone else to fill in the amount.
- Never give someone your ATM, credit card PIN or Social Security number.
- Be cautious with joint accounts as all parties have equal access to the money.
- Always take time to check your bank statements carefully for unauthorized withdrawals. When in doubt, contact the bank to stop payment on checks, to flag or to put a hold on the account or to close an account.
Establish Relationships with Legal and Financial Professionals:
Communicate on a regular basis with your banker, attorney and/or financial advisor. They can help detect changes or unusual activity that might signal problems.
Make sure that they understand your financial needs and wishes.
If you need help in paying bills, consider automatic billing paying services through a bank or hiring a bonded professional fiduciary. If there is someone helping with personal finances or bill paying, ask a trusted friend or professional to regularly review bank and other financial statements in addition to that person.
Never allow a non-attorney to change your living trust, Will, or durable powers of attorney.
Check with your county registrar to review your property title to make sure there are no liens or encumbrances.
Be Cautious about Signing Powers of Attorney:
- Before signing a power of attorney for a bank account, general purposes or for financial management, have complete trust in the person that you are naming as the agent.
- Make sure you have known the person for an adequate period of time and that you are comfortable with that person’s ability and commitment to carry out your exact wishes.
- Be aware that a power of attorney is a powerful legal document that can sometimes be used by unscrupulous persons to “legally steal” money and assets. Consult an attorney before executing a power of attorney.
Check Health Care Billing:
- Question bills or notices for services that you do not understand.
- Report providers and companies that have suspicious billing practices.
- Never give your social security number, Medicare or Medi-Cal number to unauthorized providers or anyone offering “free” health care services or equipment.
Be Aware of Telephone & Mail Solicitations:
- The telephone is the gateway to financial abuse.
- Hang up on any phone solicitations and throw away mail solicitations.
- Just say no to any and all prize offers, travel packages, get-rich-quick schemes, high interest investments, and pleas from unknown people, companies, and charitable or religious organizations. You didn’t win.
- Never give your social security number, credit card number, or personal information over the phone.
Avoid Financial Product Salespeople:
- Do not attend free lunch and dinner financial seminars.
- Be wary of “experts” who charge money to pre-qualify or “guarantee” eligibility for government benefits. Seek assistance from a licensed elder estate planning attorney.
(Contact CANHR's Lawyer Referral Services)
Page Last Modified: February 27, 2018