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How to Prevent Elder Financial Abuse

Plan Ahead:

  • 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: July 9, 2018