According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, only 1 in 14 cases of elder abuse ever come to the attention of authorities.
Elder abuse is physical, emotional, financial or sexual harm inflicted upon an older adult, or neglect of welfare by people who are responsible for their care. In the United States alone, approximately 1 in 10 people aged 60-plus have experienced some form of elder abuse. Sadly, victims of elder abuse are often too physically frail or have a diminished mental capacity, which makes them unable to recognize abuse and, therefore, incapable of fighting it.
Elder abuse is most commonly perpetrated by family members, including adult children, spouses and partners, but it can also occur by a hired caregiver who is working in the older person’s home or in an institutional setting, such as an assisted living facility.
Financial exploitation involves the unauthorized use of an elder’s funds or property, including stealing cash, using an elder’s checks or credit cards, forging their signature and/or identity theft.
Here are 10 tips to help reduce the risk of becoming the next victim of financial elder abuse:
- Be cautious of selecting a caregiver- Carefully review what their services offer and conduct "interviews" before finalizing your in-home caregiver.
- Create and update an inventory of all jewelry- Jewelry is the number one item that is stolen from homes occupied by elders. You should photograph rare, valuable, and sentimental items and lock them away. If there is a theft, your photos can be used for evidence to track the jewelry.
- Shred your mail containing identifying information- Never discard old checkbooks or credit card application forms with your information on them. Be sure to shred them so someone will not be able to use them.
- Never leave your incoming or outgoing mail unsecured- Allowing incoming mail to sit unsecured can be risky. Consider taking your outgoing mail to your local post office.
- Get a credit report annually- Identity theft is rampant. Protect yourself by by periodically running a credit report so you can discover whether someone has applied for or obtained a line of credit in your name.
- Only answer known numbers on the telephone- Be on guard for calls that come through as "Private" or "Unknown".
- Never accept or participate in calls/emails that say you are a winner of funds- If someone calls or emails you saying you are the proud winner of the lottery or that you could receive substantial funds, these communications are fraudulent.
- Consider a duplicate copy of your statement to be sent to a family member- Your trusted family member may be able to spot and recognize fraudulent charges that are being made.
- Never assume the friendly handyman is licensed- Be sure to find at least 3 estimates on a home projects in writing and reference the Better Business Bureau and State License Contractors Board to confirm the contractors business. Never pay more than 10% of the contract price upfront.
- Use a second line of defense at your door- Having a second line of defense such as a screen door, video door bell, or security chain, can defend against crooks who attempt to access your home.