Lately it seems like all we are dealing with these days are financial abuse issues and seniors. It is scary really the amount of scams and fraudulent activity that is targeted specifically at older adults. Financial abuse from a caregiver or family member can lead down the road of neglect and lack of appropriate care. If the money is being spent on other things, how is it going to be spent taking care of you?
For everyone but for seniors in particular, your peace of mind about financial security is important. Stay involved in and aware of what is happening with your money, property and belongings. Financial abuse happens when someone tries to take or control what belongs to you for their own benefit, not yours. It can be useful sometimes to have someone you trust help you with your financial affairs. Their responsibility is to protect your well-being and financial interests.
How Does Financial Abuse Happen?
Financial abuse can happen in many different ways. The following are some common examples:
• Stealing money, bank cards, credit cards, and/ or possessions.
• Misusing your money by cashing cheques or accessing accounts without permission from you.
• Threatening or pressuring you to give them money.
• Making you feel guilty about their financial troubles so you feel obligated to help.
• Not allowing you to spend money on what you want.
• Persuading, tricking, or threatening you to make changes to your will and/or power of attorney.
• Pressuring you to sign legal papers you may not fully understand.
• Sharing your home without paying a fair share of the expenses or refusing to move out of your home when asked.
• Failing to provide you with agreed upon services such as care-giving or home maintenance.
• Refusing to return borrowed money or property.
Some Warning Signs
• A caregiver takes a great interest in your money and property matters.
• Your banking records do not match your activities (e.g. money withdrawals or transfers you have not made).
• Your bills are not paid because there is not enough money to cover them, even though there should be.
• Changes are made to your will, or your property that is not in your best interest.
How to Prevent Financial Abuse
Below is a list of some suggestion that you might utilize to help protect yourself from financial abuse:
A joint bank account, power of attorney or other arrangements may be helpful but they should be used in your best interests. Make sure your wishes and expectations are clear when you enter into any such agreement.
Write into your Continuing Power of Attorney for Property instructions regarding when it is to come into effect.
Have a lawyer review agreements you discuss.
Open and send your own mail.
Keep your money in a bank or financial institution, not at home.
Have cheques deposited directly into your bank account and bills direct debited out of your account. Bank staff will set this up for you.
Do not have joint bank accounts unless it is necessary.
Write a plan for the repayment of money before you lend it to a relative or friend.
Do your own banking if you can.
Have a small withdrawal limit on your debit card. Then if someone forces you to give them money at the bank machine, it will only give you a small amount of cash.
Do not keep large amounts of cash at home or in your wallet and keep any cash on hand in small bills.
Have low limits on credit cards.
Do not give out your PIN or passwords to any bank accounts or credit cards.
Do not let anyone set up online computer access to your bank accounts.
Safely dispose of old bills and statements – shredding is best.
Be suspicious if someone you don’t know asks you to send them money or a cheque, or to return
money they “accidentally” sent you.
For more information on safety planning for seniors, please visit; www.seniorsafetyinfo.com