InvestmentNews Editorials

Financial schemes against seniors are most often committed by people closest to them

Advisers can — and should — take steps to discourage elder financial fraud

May 19, 2018 @ 7:00 am

There are plenty of scams that strangers come up with to trick the elderly into giving up their money, but most financial schemes against seniors are committed by those who are closest to the victims: family, friends and caregivers.

While that might not come as a surprise, what is disturbing is that most senior citizens don't realize it. A recent survey conducted by Wells Fargo found that 68% of older investors believe that a stranger is most likely to take advantage of them, not someone close to them. Another disturbing result of the survey showed that while 98% of older Americans acknowledge that seniors are susceptible to scams, only 10% believe they themselves are at risk, and only 24% worry about it.

The types of fraud committed by those closest to the elderly include using a senior's ATM card, stealing checks and withdrawing money from a senior's account, or keeping change after going to the store for an elderly person. In some cases, family members may rationalize their crimes by convincing themselves that they are entitled to the money. And because the perpetrators are close to the victims, seniors may not want to report them to authorities.

(More: How criminals steal $37 billion a year from America's elderly)

Advisers can — and should — take steps to discourage these types of fraud. For example, have your senior client sign up for direct deposit of all regular payments they receive. At the same time, have them sign up for automatic bill payments for regular monthly expenses. Make sure their checkbooks and ATM cards are locked away in a secure location and that they conduct a credit report on themselves at least once a year. Taking some sensible steps now might save your clients potential headaches later.

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