Pro­tect el­ders’ money dur­ing the hol­i­days

Scam­mers work over­time this time of year, and se­niors of­ten most vul­ner­a­ble.

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - By Pamela Yip Dal­las Morn­ing News

This is the time of year when fam­i­lies get to­gether to en­joy one an­other’s com­pany. Who wants to spoil it by warn­ing your el­derly loved ones about scams?

Isn’t this bad tim­ing? Nope. It’s per­fect tim­ing.

Thieves work over­time this time of the year, and a prime tar­get is the el­derly.

“There are a lot of dif­fer­ent things at play this time of year that make it crit­i­cal to have this con­ver­sa­tion,” said Sandy Mark­wood, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Area Agen­cies on Ag­ing.

“One thing is that we saw an in­crease in fi­nan­cial ex­ploita­tion of older adults just be­cause of the eco­nomic down­turn, and peo­ple were look­ing at prey­ing on any­body to get ad­di­tional re­sources,” she said.

“But the other is­sue is at this time of year, there is an aw­ful lot of spend­ing ac­tiv­ity and of­ten­times, it’s easy to pick up some­body’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, their credit card in­for­ma­tion and maybe not to pay at­ten­tion as closely if some­body has one of your checks and/or forged your sig­na­ture.”

Mark­wood’s or­ga­ni­za­tion is part of the 10th an­nual Home for the Hol­i­days cam­paign of the El­der­care Lo­ca­tor, a pub­lic ser­vice of the U.S. Ad­min­is­tra­tion on Ag­ing that en­cour­ages older adults, care­givers and their fam­i­lies to use their hol­i­day time to­gether to talk about strate­gies to pre­vent fi­nan­cial ex­ploita­tion of the el­derly.

“Fi­nan­cial ex­ploita­tion of older adults can take many forms and can come in many guises, in­clud­ing tele­mar­ket­ing scams, iden­tity theft, fake check scams, home re­pair fraud, and even ‘sweet­heart scams,’ whereby a con artist be­friends or ro­mances a lonely

older adult to gain con­trol over their fi­nances,” Mark­wood said.

Un­for­tu­nately, fi­nan­cial ex­ploita­tion can also be com­mit­ted by a fam­ily mem­ber or friend.

“El­der fi­nan­cial ex­ploita­tion has far-reach­ing ef­fects on its vic­tims in par­tic­u­lar and so­ci­ety in gen­eral,” said the U.S. Government Accountability Of­fice, which in Novem­ber re­leased a study on the is­sue in a report ti­tled “El­der Jus­tice: Na­tional Strat­egy Needed to Ef­fec­tively Com­bat El­der Fi­nan­cial Ex­ploita­tion.”

Fam­ily mem­bers should be aware of warn­ing signs. “You walk into mom or dad’s house, they’re peo­ple who’ve al­ways paid their bills on time, and all of a sud­den, there’s a pile of bills … and that’s so com­pletely counter to the way that your par­ents have han- dled money be­fore,” Mark­wood said. “If all of a sud­den you hear about new ‘friends’ who are of­fer­ing to drive mom or dad to the bank or to do things that they’re get­ting some form of pay­ment for, those are red flags.”

Also, if you see a lot of tele­mar­ket­ing in­for­ma­tion coming to your el­derly loved ones’ home or they’re talk­ing about some “great in­vest­ment deal or if you have any indi­ca­tions that there have been changes to any kind of fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments that were never dis­cussed with any­body else, those are all red flags,” Mark­wood said.

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